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the Toronto Province 

from the Library Collection of 
Holy Redeemer College, Windsor 

University of 
St. Michael s College, Toronto 








Die 12 Decembris, 1910. 


{Ainbrosian Gallery, Milan.) 









191 I 

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xxii. "THE GREATER OF THESE"- 149 

xxiii. "NOT PEACE, BUT THE SWORD" - - 156 









xxxn. "WHAT WENT YOU OUT TO SEE?" - 218 


xxxiv. "ECCE VENIO" - - - 234 






To the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, 
and Other Ordinaries in Peace and Communion 
with the Apostolic See, Pius X., Pope. 

VENERABLE BRETHREN, Health and Apostolic 

What the Divine word time and again records in 
the Sacred Scriptures that the just man shall live in 
eternal memory of praise, and that he speaks even 
when dead (Ps. cxi. 7 ; Prov. x. 7 ; Heb. xi. 4) is 
specially verified by the voice and the continued work 
of the Church. For she, mother and nurse of sanctity 
that she is, ever rejuvenated and rendered fruitful by 
the breath of " the Holy Spirit who dwells within us" 
(Rom. viii. n), as she alone generates, nourishes, and 
brings up within her bosom, the most noble family of 
the just, so too she is the most solicitous, by an 
instinct as it were of maternal love, in preserving 
their memory and in stimulating love for them. And 
from this remembrance she derives a comfort that is 
almost Divine, and that draws her eyes from the 
miseries of this mortal pilgrimage to see in the saints 
her joy and her crown, to recognize in them the 

1 Reprinted, with permission, from the Tablet. 

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sublime image of her heavenly Spouse, and to in 
culcate upon her children with new evidence the old 
truth : " To them that love God all things work 
together unto good to such as according to His 
purpose are called to be saints " (Rom. viii. 28). And 
their glorious works are not only a comfort to the 
memory, but a light for imitation and a strong in 
centive to virtue through that unanimous echo of the 
saints which responds to the voice of Paul : " Be ye 
followers of me as I also am of Christ " (i Cor. iv. 16). 


For these reasons, Venerable Brethren, ever since, 
immediately on our elevation to the Supreme Pontifi 
cate, we made known our intention of working con 
stantly that "all things might be restored in Christ," 
in our first Encyclical Letter (Litt. Encycl. " E 
Supremi," October, 1903), we have studied earnestly 
to make all turn their eyes with us to Jesus, "the 
Apostle and Pontiff of our confession, the Author and 
Finisher of our faith" (Heb. iii. i, xii. 2-3). But 
since our weakness is such that we are apt to be con 
founded by the greatness of such an Exemplar, we 
had, through the kindness of Divine Providence, 
another model to propose, one who, while being as 
close to Christ as it is possible for human nature to 
reach, is better adapted to our weakness, namely, the 
ever-blessed Virgin, the august Mother of God (Litt. 
Encycl. " Ad Diem Ilium," die ii. m. Feb., 1904). 
Moreover, availing ourself of various occasions to 
revive the memory of the saints, we have held up 
for universal admiration those faithful servants and 

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ministers in the house of God, and each in his proper 
degree, those friends of His and members of His 
household "who by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought 
justice, obtained promises" (Heb. xi. 33), that we 
might be urged on by their example " that henceforth 
we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried 
about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness 
of men, by cunning craftiness by which they lie in 
wait to deceive; but doing the truth in charity, we 
may in all things grow up in Him who is the Head, 
even Christ " (Eph. iv. 14 et seq.). 

This most lofty design of Divine Providence we 
showed forth as realized in the highest degree in three 
personages who flourished as great Doctors and 
Pastors at periods far apart, but each of them almost 
equally calamitous for the Church : Gregory the 
Great, John Chrysostom, and Anselm of Aosta, whose 
solemn centenaries have fallen in these latter years. 
Thus more especially in the two Encyclical Letters 
given on March 12, 1904, and on April 21, 1909, we 
expounded those points of doctrine and precepts of 
Christian life which seemed to us suitable for our own 
times, and which are to be found in the example and 
teaching of these saints. 


And since we are persuaded that the illustrious 
examples set by the soldiers of Christ are far better 
calculated to stir and draw souls than words or deep 
treatises (Encycl. " E Supremi "), we now gladly avail 
ourself of another happy opportunity which is presented 
to us to commend the most useful lessons to be drawn 


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from another holy pastor raised up by God in times 
nearer to our own, and amid tempests almost identical 
with those through which we are passing, that 
Cardinal of Holy Roman Church and Archbishop of 
Milan, Charles Borromeo, by Paul V. of holy memory 
numbered among the saints. And the occasion is not 
less adapted to our purpose ; for, to quote the words 
of our predecessor, " the Lord, who alone works great 
wonders, has done magnificent things with us in these 
latter times, and in His wonderful dispensation He 
has erected a great luminary above the Apostolic rock, 
by choosing Charles from the bosom of the Most Holy 
Roman Church to be a faithful priest, a good servant, 
a model for the flock and model for pastors, who, 
lighting up the whole Church with the varied brilliancy 
of his holy works, shines out before priests and people 
as an Abel in innocence, an Epoch in purity, a Jacob 
in bearing labours, a Moses in meekness, an Elias in 
burning zeal ; who shows forth in himself for our 
imitation the austerity of a Jerome amid an abundance 
of luxuries, the humility of a Martin in its highest 
grade, the pastoral solicitude of a Gregory, the liberty 
of an Ambrose, the charity of a Paulinus who, in fine, 
gives us to see with our eyes, and to touch with our 
hand, a man who, while the world smiles wich all its 
blandishments upon him, lives of the spirit, trampling 
earthly things underfoot, seeking continuously the 
tnings of heaven, and that not merely because by his 
office occupying the place of an angel, but because he 
was emulous on earth to think the thoughts and do 
the works of the life of the angels " (Bull " Unigenitus," 
Cal. Nov. anno 1610). 

Thus our predecessor, five lustres after the death of 

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Charles. And now, three centuries after the glorifica 
tion decreed to him, " with good reason are our lips 
full of joy and our tongue of exultation on the great 
day of our solemnity, whereon with the decreeing of 
the sacred honours to Charles, Cardinal Priest of the 
Holy Roman Church, over which, by the disposition 
of the Lord, we preside, a crown rich in all precious 
stones was given to His only Spouse." Thus we have, 
in common with our predecessor, the confidence that, 
from the contemplation of the glory and still more 
from the teaching and example of the saints, the 
frowardness of the impious may be humiliated, and 
confounded all those who " glory in the idols of their 
errors " (Bull " Unigenitus "). Thus the renewal of 
the glorification of Charles, model of the flock and 
of pastors in modern times, unwearied defender and 
advocate of the true Catholic reform against those 
innovators whose aim was not the restoration, but 
rather the deformation and destruction of faith and 
morals, will serve after three centuries as a source of 
special comfort and instruction for all Catholics, and 
a noble incentive to them to co-operate strenuously in 
the work we have so much at heart, of the restoration 
of all things in Christ. 

It is certainly well known to you, Venerable 
Brethren, that the Church, although ever in tribula 
tion, is never left by God wholly without consolation. 
" For Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself 
up for it, that He might sanctify it ... and present 
it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or 
wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy 

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and without blemish " (Eph. v. 25 et seq.). Nay, when 
the licentiousness of morals is most unbridled, the 
onslaught of persecution most fierce, when the wiles 
of error, that seem to threaten her with utter ruin, and 
that tear from her bosom not a few of her children to 
plunge them in the vortex of impiety and vice, are most 
cunning, it is then that the Church finds Divine pro 
tection more efficacious than ever. For, with or 
without the consent of the wicked, God makes error 
itself serve for the triumph of the truth of which the 
Church is the vigilant guardian ; makes corruption 
serve for the increase of sanctity, of which she is the 
nursing mother and mistress, and persecution serve 
for a more wonderful " freedom from our enemies." 
And thus it happens that, when to profane eyes the 
Church seems to be buffeted and almost submerged 
by the rage of the storm, she comes forth fairer, 
stronger, purer, refulgent with the splendour of the 
greatest virtues. 

In this way the supreme goodness of God ever 
confirms with new proofs that the Church is a Divine 
work, because in the most painful trial, that of the 
errors and sins which insinuate themselves in its very 
members, He makes her triumph in the combat, 
because He shows in it the truth of the words of 
Christ : " The gates of hell shall not prevail against 
it " (Matt. xvi. 18) ; because He proves by the reality 
the truth of the promise : " Behold, I am with you 
all days, even to the consummation of the world" 
(Matt, xxviii. 20) ; and finally because He gives 
testimony of that mysterious virtue by which another 
Paraclete, promised by Christ immediately on His 
return to heaven, continually pours out His gifts upon 

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it and defends and controls it in all tribulation " a 
Spirit who abides with it for ever ; the Spirit of truth 
whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him 
not nor knoweth Him . . . because He shall abide in 
you, and shall be in you " (John xiv. 16 et seq., 26 et seq., 
xvi. 7 et seq.). From this fount wells the life and 
force of the Church ; and by this, too, as the 
CEcumenical Vatican Council teaches, it is dis 
tinguished from all other societies by the manifest 
notes wherewith it is signalized and constituted " as a 
banner raised up among the nations" (Sess. iii., Const. 
" Dei Filius," c. 3). 

And, truly, only a miracle of the Divine power could 
insure that the Church amid the flood of corruption 
and the failings of its members, as the mystical body 
of Christ, remains indefectible in the holiness of its 
doctrine, of its laws, of its end ; from these same 
causes derives fruitful results ; from the faith and 
justice of many of her children gathers most copious 
fruits of salvation. No less clear appears the seal of 
its Divine life in that amid so vast and foul a mass of 
perverse opinions, amid such numbers of rebels, amid 
so multiform a variety of errors, it perseveres im 
mutable and constant, as "the pillar and ground of 
truth," in the profession of one and the same doctrine, 
in the communion of the same Sacraments, in its Divine 
constitution, in its government, in its morals. And 
this is all the more wonderful inasmuch as the Church 
not only resists evil, but " conquers evil with good," 
and never ceases from blessing friends and enemies 
alike, while it works and yearns with all its soul to 
effect the Christian renovation of society as well as of 
the individuals that compose it. For this is its special 


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mission in the world, and of this its very enemies 
experience the benefit. 

This wonderful influx of Divine Providence in the 
work of restoration prompted by the Church shines 
forth with splendour in that sanctuary which, for the 
comfort of the good, saw the appearance of St. Charles 
Borromeo. In those days when passions ran riot, and 
the knowledge of the truth was almost completely 
perverted and obscured, there was a continual struggle 
with errors, and human society, going from bad to 
worse, seemed to be rushing towards the abyss. In 
the midst of these errors rose up proud and rebellious 
men, "enemies of the Cross of Christ . . . men of 
earthly sentiments whose god is their belly " (Phil. iii. 
1 8, 19). These, bent not on correcting morals, but on 
denying dogmas, multiplied the disorder, loosening 
for themselves and for others the bridle of licentious 
ness, and condemning the authoritative guidance of 
the Church to pander to the passions of the most 
corrupt princes and peoples, with a virtual tyranny 
overturned its doctrine, constitution, discipline. Then, 
imitating those sinners to whom was addressed the 
menace, " Woe to you who call evil good, and good 
evil!" (Isa. v. 20), that tumult of rebellion and that 
perversion of faith and morals they called reformation 
and themselves reformers. But in truth they were 
corrupters ; for, undermining with dissensions and wars 
the forces of Europe, they paved the way for the 
rebellions and the apostasy of modern times, in which 
were united and renewed in one onslaught those three 
kinds of conflict, hitherto separated, from which the 
Church has always issued victorious the bloody con 
flicts of the first ages, then the internal pest of heresies, 


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and finally, under the name of evangelical liberty, a 
vicious corruption and a perversion of discipline 
unknown, perhaps, in mediaeval times. 


To this crowd of seducers God opposed real 
reformers and holy men to arrest the impetuous 
current and extinguish the conflagration, and to repair 
the harm already done. Their assiduous and manifold 
works for the reformation of discipline was all the 
more comforting to the Church by reason of the great 
tribulation that afflicted it, and afforded a proof of the 
words, " God is faithful, who . . . also with temptation 
will make issue" (i Cor. x. 13). It was in these 
circumstances that by a Providential disposition the 
singular zeal and sanctity of Charles Borromeo came 
to bring fresh consolation to the Church. 

For God so ordained that his ministry was to have 
a force and efficacy all its own, not only in checking 
the audacity of the factious, but in teaching and 
kindling the children of the Church. He curbed the 
mad ardours of the former, and refuted their futile 
charges with the most powerful eloquence by the 
example of his life and labours ; he raised the hopes 
of the latter and revived their zeal. And it was truly 
wonderful how from his youth he united in himself all 
those qualities of the real reformer, which in others 
we see scattered and isolated : virtue, sense, doctrine, 
authority, power, quickness ; and how he combined 
them all to serve for the defence of Catholic truth 
against the onrush of heresies, as is the proper mission 
of the Church, reviving the faith that had grown 
dormant and almost extinct in many, strengthening 
xvii b 

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it by provident laws and institutions, restoring the 
discipline that had been dethroned, and strenuously 
leading back the morals of the clergy and people to 
the tenor of Christian life. Thus, while he accom 
plishes all the offices of the reformer, he also duly 
discharges all the functions of the " good and faithful 
servant," and later those of the great priest who 
" pleased God in his days, and was found just," and 
therefore worthy to be taken as an example by all 
classes of persons, clergy and laity, rich and poor ; 
like those whose excellence is summarized in the 
encomium of Bishop and prelate, by which obeying 
the words of the Apostolic Peter he made himself a 
" pattern of the flock from the heart " (i Pet. v. 3). 
No less admirable is the fact that Charles, before 
reaching the age of twenty-three, although raised to 
the highest honours and entrusted with important and 
most difficult affairs of the Church, made daily pro 
gress in the more perfect exercise of virtue, through 
that contemplation of Divine things which in sacred 
retirement had already renewed him, and he shone 
forth " a spectacle to the world, to the angels, and to 

Then indeed, to use again the words of our pre 
decessor Paul V., the Lord began to show forth in 
Charles His wonders : wisdom, justice, burning zeal 
in promoting the glory of God and the Catholic name, 
and, above all things, solicitude for that work of restora 
tion of the faith and of the Universal Church which 
was treated in the august gathering of Trent. The 
Pontiff himself and all posterity assigned to him the 
merit of the celebration of this Council, inasmuch as 
he, before becoming the most faithful executor of it, 

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was its most efficacious promoter. Indeed, were it 
not for his many vigils, trials, and labours, that work 
would not have attained its ultimate completion. 

And yet all these things were but a preparation and 
a novitiate, in which his heart was trained with piety, 
his mind with study, his body with labour ; while he 
always kept himself, modest and humble youth as he 
was, as clay in the hands of God and God s Vicar on 
earth. A life of preparation such as this was just the 
kind to be despised by the innovators of the time, 
through that same foolishness which leads the modern 
innovators to despise it, in their failure to observe 
that the wonderful works of God are brought to 
maturity in the shade and silence of the soul dedicated 
to obedience and prayer, and that in this preparation 
lies the germ of future progress, as the hope of the 
harvest lies in the sowing. 

The sanctity and laboriousness of Charles, who was 
then preparing himself under such splendid auspices, 
developed in due course and produced marvellous 
fruit, as we have hinted already, when he, " like the 
good workman he was, leaving the splendour and 
majesty of Rome, retired to the field that he was to 
cultivate in Milan, and, discharging there better and 
better every day all his offices, brought it to such 
splendour, from the state of rank growths and wild- 
ness to which the evil times had so deplorably reduced 
it, as to make of the Church of Milan a most bril 
liant example of ecclesiastical discipline " (Bull 
" Unigenitus "). 


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All these striking results he attained by adopting 
in his work of reformation the rules laid down shortly 
before by the Council of Trent. 

For the Church, knowing well how " the imagina 
tion and thought of man s heart are prone to evil" 
(Gen. viii. 21), never ceases to combat vice and error, 
that " the body of sin may be destroyed to the end 
that we may serve sin no longer " (Rom. vi. 6). And 
in this conflict, as she is a mistress to herself and 
guided " by the grace which is diffused in our hearts 
by the Holy Ghost " (Eph. iv. 23), so she is governed 
in her thought and action by the Doctor of the Gen 
tiles, who says : " Be ye renewed in the spirit of your 
mind. . . . And be not conformed to this world, but 
be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you 
may prove what is the good and the acceptable and 
the perfect will of God" (Rom. xii. 2). And the son 
of the Church and true reformer never persuades 
himself that he has attained the goal, but with the 
Apostle only protests that he is striving towards it : 
" Forgetting the things that are behind, and stretching 
myself to those that are before, I press towards the 
mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation of God in 
Christ Jesus" (Phil. iii. 13, 14). 

Thus it is that, united with Christ in the Church, 
" we in all things grow up in Him who is the Head, 
even Christ, from whom the whole body maketh its 
own increase unto the edifying of itself in charity" 
(Eph. iv. 15, 16), and Mother Church realizes more 
and more that mystery of the Divine will, " in the 


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dispensation of the fulness of times to re-establish all 
things in Christ" (Eph. i. 9, 10). 


No thought was given to all this by the reformers 
opposed by St. Charles, for they presumed to reform 
faith and discipline at their own caprice nor is it 
better understood, Venerable Brethren, by the moderns 
against whom we have to combat to-day. These, too, 
subvert the doctrine, laws, institutions, of the Church, 
for ever talking about culture and civilization, not 
because they have this so much at heart, but because 
under such sounding words they are enabled the 
better to conceal the evil nature of their designs. 

Their real aims, their plots, the line they are follow 
ing, is well known to all of you, and their designs have 
been denounced and condemned by us. What they 
propose is a universal apostasy from the faith and 
discipline of the Church, an apostasy all the worse 
than the one which threatened the century of Charles, 
from the fact that it creeps insidious and hidden in 
the very veins of the Church, and with extreme 
subtlety pushes erroneous principles to their extreme 

But both have the same origin in the enemy who, 
ever alert for the perdition of men, " has oversowed 
cockle among the wheat " (Matt. xiii. 25) ; of both 
revolts the ways are hidden and darksome, with 
the same development and the same fatal issue. 
For as in the past the first apostasy, turning to the 
side on which fortune seemed to favour it, stirred up the 
powerful against the people or the people against the 

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powerful, only to lead both classes to destruction, so 
this modern apostasy stimulates mutual hatred between 
the poor and the rich, until people, growing discon 
tented with their lot, lead lives more and more miser 
able, and pay the penalty imposed on all who, absorbed 
in earthly and fleeting things, seek not "the kingdom 
of God and His justice." Nay, the present conflict 
has become all the more grave from the fact that, 
while the turbulent innovators of other times as a rule 
retained some fragment of the treasure of revealed 
doctrine, the moderns would seem to have no peace 
until they have utterly destroyed it. Now, once the 
foundations of religion are thus overturned, the bonds 
of civil society are also necessarily broken. Truly a 
spectacle full of sadness for the present and of menace 
for the future ; not because there is any ground for fears 
as to the safety of the Church, for here the Divine 
promises do not permit of doubt, but for the dangers 
that threaten the family and the nations, especially 
for those who foment with most activity, or who 
tolerate with most indifference this pestiferous wind 
of impiety. 

Amid so impious and so stupid a war, carried on 
sometimes and propagated with the aid of those who 
should be the first to support us and help our cause ; 
amid this manifold transformation of error and these 
varied blandishments of vice, by both of which many 
even of our own allow themselves to be led astray, 
seduced as they are by the appearances of novelty and 
of doctrine, or by the illusion that the Church may 
well come to a friendly agreement with the maxims of 
the age, you are well aware, Venerable Brethren, that 
we must all oppose a vigorous resistance and repel 

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the assault of the enemy with those very weapons 
which Charles Borromeo used in his own time. 


And first of all, since they are attacking the very 
rock of faith, either by open denial, or by hypocritical 
assault, or by misrepresenting revealed doctrine, we 
shall do well to remember what St. Charles often 
inculcated, viz., that " The first and chief care of 
pastors must be concerned with all that concerns the 
full and inviolate maintenance of the Catholic Faith 
the faith which the Holy Roman Church professes 
and teaches, and without which it is impossible to 
please God " (Cone. Prov. I., at the beginning). And 
again : " In this matter no diligence can be too great 
to meet what are certainly the requirements of the 
case " (Cone. Prov. V., Pars i.). Hence it is neces 
sary to oppose sound doctrine to the leaven of heretical 
depravity, which, if not repressed, corrupts the whole 
mass that is, we must oppose the perverse opinions 
which are making their way under lying semblances, 
and which, taken together, are professed by Modernism, 
remembering with St. Charles " how supreme must 
be the zeal, and how diligent above all else must be 
the care, of the Bishop to combat the crime of heresy " 
(Cone. Prov. V., Pars i.). 

In truth, it is not necessary to record the other 
words of the saint in quoting the sanctions, laws, 
penalties, laid down by the Roman Pontiffs against 
prelates who are negligent or remiss in purging their 
dioceses of the evil of heresy. But it will be quite 
opportune to meditate closely on the conclusions he 
draws from these : " Hence the Bishop must, above 

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all things, persevere in this eternal solicitude and 
continuous vigilance, not only to prevent the most 
pestilent disease of heresy from penetrating among 
the flock committed to him, but even to remove the 
faintest suspicion of it from them. And if it should 
happen to penetrate which may the Lord Christ in 
His pitiful mercy forbid ! then he must strive at once 
by all means in his power to have it driven out 
immediately, and he must have those who are infected 
or under suspicion of being infected with the pestilence 
treated according to the pontifical canons and sanc 
tions " (ibid. ). 


But neither liberation nor preservation from the 
pest of error is possible except through proper 
instruction of the clergy and people, for " faith cometh 
by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ " 
(Rom. x. 17). This necessity of inculcating the truth 
upon all is more than ever urgent in our days, when 
through all the veins of the State, and from sources 
whence it might have been least expected, we see 
the poison penetrate to such a degree that all come 
within the scope of the reasons alleged by St. Charles 
in these words : " If those who live close to the 
heretics be not firm and well grounded in the founda 
tions of the faith, there is only too much reason to 
fear that they will easily allow themselves to be drawn 
from them into some snare of impiety or false doc 
trine " (Cone. Prov. V., Pars i.). For nowadays, owing 
to the facility of travel, the means of communication 
have been increased for error as well as for all other 
things, and by reason of the unbridled liberty of the 

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passions we live in the midst of a perverted society in 
which " there is no truth . . . and the knowledge of 
God does not exist" (Os. iv. i); "in a land that is 
desolate . . . because no one thinketh in the heart " 
(Jer. xii. n). Hence we, to use the words of St. 
Charles, " have hitherto employed much diligence to 
insure that the faithful of Christ all and several be 
well instructed in the rudiments of the Christian 
faith" (Con. Prov. V., Pars i.), and have written 
a special encyclical letter on the subject as being one 
of the most vital importance (Encycl. " Acerbo nimis," 
April 25, 1905). But although we do not wish to 
repeat what Charles Borromeo in his burning zeal 
lamented, that " We have hitherto obtained all too 
little success in a matter of such moment," yet, like 
him, " swayed by the vastness of the undertaking and 
of the danger," we would still further kindle the zeal 
of all, to the end that, taking Charles as their model, 
they may contribute, each in his grade and according 
to his strength, in this work of Christian restoration. 
Let fathers and employers remember with what 
fervour the holy Bishop constantly inculcated upon 
them not only to afford the opportunity but to impose 
the obligation of learning Christian doctrine upon 
their children, servants, and employes. Let clerics 
remember that they must help the parish priests in 
this teaching, and let parish priests have schools for 
the purpose multiplied according to the numbers and 
the necessities of their people, and see to it that they 
be commendable in the probity of the teachers, who 
should be assisted by men and women of tried morality 
after the method prescribed by the holy Archbishop 
of Milan (Con. Prov. V., Pars i.). 

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The necessity of this Christian instruction is 
obviously increased both by the trend of modern times 
and customs, and especially by the existence of those 
public schools, destitute of all religion, in which 
everything most holy is ridiculed and condemned, and 
in which the lips of the teachers and the ears of the 
scholars are equally opened for blasphemy. We speak 
of those which with supreme injustice are called lay 
or neutral, but which in reality are the prey of the 
domineering tyranny of a darksome sect. This new 
trick of hypocritical liberty you have already de 
nounced aloud and fearlessly, Venerable Brethren, 
especially in those countries where the rights of 
religion and of the family have been more shame 
lessly trampled upon, and in which the very voice of 
Nature, proclaiming that the faith and innocence of 
youth must be respected, has been stifled. To remedy, 
as far as was possible for us, so great an evil inflicted 
by those same persons who, while they claim obedi 
ence to themselves, deny it to the supreme Master of 
all things, we have recommended that schools of 
Christian doctrine be established in the various cities. 
And while this work, thanks to your efforts, has 
already made good progress, still it is earnestly to be 
desired that it be propagated ever more widely, and 
that these schools be established numerously every 
where, and be provided with teachers of sound doc 
trine and good life. 

These same qualities are with much greater reason 
to be looked for in the sacred orator whose office is 
closely connected with that of the necessary instruc 
tion in the first elements of religious teaching. Hence 
the diligence and the counsel of Charles in the pro- 

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vincial and diocesan synods were directed with a 
most special care to the formation of preachers, who 
might be employed with holy zeal and good fruit in 
" the ministry of the word." And this, too, and 
perhaps even more urgently, seems to be required in 
the times in which we live, when the faith is weaken 
ing in so many hearts, and when there is no lack of 
those who in a spirit of vainglory follow the fashions, 
adulterating the Word of God, and depriving souls of 
the food of life. 


With the utmost vigilance, therefore, Venerable 
Brethren, we must see to it that our flock be not fed 
on wind by vain and frivolous men, but be nourished 
with life-giving food by " ministers of the Word " of 
whom it may be said : " For Christ we are ambas 
sadors, God as it were exhorting by us. Be reconciled 
to God" (2 Cor. v. 20), "not walking in craftiness, 
nor adulterating the Word of God, but by manifesta 
tion of the truth commending ourselves to every 
man s conscience in the sight of God " (2 Cor. iv. 2) ; 
" workmen that need not to be ashamed, and rightly 
handling the word of truth " (2 Tim. ii. 15). Nor less 
useful for us will be those most holy and most fruitful 
rules which the Bishop of Milan was accustomed to 
lay down for the faithful, and which are summarized 
in the words of St. Paul : " When you had received 
from us the word of the hearing of God, you received 
it not as the word of men, but (as it is indeed) the 
word of God, who worketh in you who have believed" 
(i Thess. ii. 13). 

Thus, " the Word of God, living and effectual and 

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more piercing than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 
iv. 12), will work not only for the conservation and 
defence of the faith, but as an efficacious impulse to 
good works, for " faith without works is dead " (Jas. 
ii. 26) ; " for not the hearers of the law are just before 
God, but the doers of the law shall be justified " 
(Rom. ii. 13). 

Here, too, we see again how immense is the differ 
ence between real and false reform. For those who 
advocate the false, imitating the inconsistency of the 
foolish, are wont to rush to extremes, either by exalt 
ing faith in such a way as to exclude good works, or 
ascribing to Nature alone all the excellence of virtue 
without the aids of faith and Divine grace. Whereas 
the acts proceeding from merely natural uprightness 
are but the simulacra of virtue, neither lasting in 
themselves nor sufficient for salvation. The work of 
such reformers, therefore, is not adapted to restore 
discipline, but is fatal to faith and morals. 

On the other hand, those who, like St. Charles, 
sincerely and straightforwardly seek true and salutary 
reform, avoid extremes, and never outstep those limits 
beyond which true reform cannot subsist. United as 
they are in the closest links with the Church and its 
Head, Christ, they not only derive thence strength 
for their interior life, but learn rules for their public 
action, to enable them to devote themselves with sure 
purpose to the work of healing human society. Now, 
of this Divine mission, transmitted perpetually to 
those who have to be the legates of Christ, it is the 
function "to teach all nations," and not only the 
things that are to be believed, but things that are to 
be done that is, as Christ Himself said, " Observe 

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all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt, 
xxviii. 18-20). For He is " the Way, the Truth, and 
the Life " (John xiv. 6), and He came that men " may 
have life and have it more abundantly" (John x. 10). 
But since to fulfil all those duties with the sole 
guidance of Nature is something far beyond what the 
forces of man can by themselves attain, the Church 
possesses, together with her magisterium, the power 
of governing human society, and that of sanctifying it, 
while she communicates the opportune and necessary 
means of salvation through those who, in their several 
grades and offices, are her ministers and co-operators. 


Understanding this well, the true reformers do not 
kill the blossom in order to save the root that is, 
they do not separate faith from holiness of life but 
foster both of them, and warm them with the breath 
of charity, which is " the bond of perfection " (Col. 
iii. 14). Thus, obeying the Apostle, they "keep the 
deposit " ( i Tim. vi. 20), not to obstruct its manifesta 
tion or dim its light for the nations, but rather to send 
farther and wider the most saving waters of truth and 
life which swell from that spring. And in this they 
combine theory with practice, availing themselves of 
the former to prevent all the wiles of error, and of the 
latter to apply the precepts to the morals and action of 
life. Therefore, too, they provide all the means } 
opportune or necessary, for the attainment of the end, 
both as regards the extirpation and " for the perfection 
of the saints, for the work of the ministry, the building 
up of the body of Christ" (Eph. iv. 12). This was 
the scope of the statutes, the canons, the laws, of the 

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Fathers and Councils and all those means of instruc 
tion, government, sanctification, and beneficence of all 
kinds, and, in fine, all the discipline and activity of the 
Church. On such masters as these of faith and 
morals the true son of the Church fixes his eyes and 
his heart when he aims at the reformation of himself 
and others. And on such masters, too, Borromeo 
relies in his reformation of ecclesiastical discipline ; he 
often refers to them, as when he writes : " We, follow 
ing the ancient custom of the Holy Fathers and the 
sacred Councils, and especially of the (Ecumenical 
Synod of Trent, have laid down many dispositions 
concerning these same points in our preceding Pro 
vincial Councils." So, too, in making provision for 
the suppression of public scandals, he declares that he 
is guided " both by the law and by the sanctions of 
the sacred canons, and, above all, those of the Council 
of Trent " (Cone. Prov. V., Pars i.). 

And not content with this, in order the better to 
insure that he may never depart from this rule, he is 
wont to conclude the statutes of his Provincial Synods 
thus: "The things all and single which have been 
decreed and done by us in this Provincial Synod, we 
submit always, to be amended and corrected, to the 
authority and judgment of the Roman Church, of all 
Churches the Mother and Mistress" (Cone. Prov. VI., 
sub fineni). And this purpose of his he showed forth 
ever more fervently as he advanced with giant strides 
in the perfection of the active life, not only while the 
Chair of Peter was occupied by the Pontiff, who was 
his uncle, but also under the successors of the latter, 
Pius V. and Gregory XIII. The election of these he 
powerfully aided, and he supported them strenuously 

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in their great undertakings, corresponding perfectly 
with what they expected from him. 


But above all did he second them in putting into 
execution the practical means to attain the end in 
view, viz., the real reform of sacred discipline. Here 
again he showed himself as far as possible removed 
from the false reformers who mask their obstinate 
disobedience under an appearance of zeal. Beginning 
"the judgment of the House of God" (i Pet. iv. 17), 
he applied himself first of all to reform the discipline 
of the clergy by constant laws, and to this end erected 
seminaries for the students for the priesthood, founded 
congregations of priests known as Oblates, called 
together religious families, ancient and modern, assem 
bled Councils, and by provisions of all kinds assured 
and developed the work that had been undertaken. 
Then, without delay, he set his hand with equal 
vigour to reform the morals of the people, regarding 
as said to himself what was said to the prophet : 
" Lo, I have set thee ... to root up and to pull 
down, and to waste and to destroy, and to build and 
to plant" (Jer. i. 10). Thus, like the good shepherd 
he was, visiting personally the churches of the 
province, not without fatigue, like the Divine Master 
he went about doing good and healing the wounds of 
the flock ; he put forth every effort to suppress and 
eradicate the abuses he met on all sides, due either to 
ignorance or to neglect of the laws ; to the perversion 
of ideas and the corruption of morals that abounded, 
he raised up barriers in the form of the schools and 
college s he opened for the children and for youth, of 

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the Marian societies which he developed after having 
seen them in their early flowering here in Rome, the 
hospices he threw open for the orphans, the refuges 
he established for girls in danger, for widows, for 
mendicants, for men and women rendered destitute by 
sickness or old age ; by his protection of the poor 
against the tyranny of masters, against userers, 
against the enslaving of children ; and great numbers 
of other institutions. But all this he effected shun 
ning entirely the methods of those who would renew 
human society after their own fashion by overturning 
everything, by agitation, by vain noise, forgetting the 
Divine words : " The Lord is not found in commo 
tion" (3 Kings xix. n). 

Just here is another point in which the real 
reformers differ from the false, as you, Venerable 
Brethren, have often experienced. The false reformers 
" seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ " 
(Phil. ii. 21) ; and giving ear to the insidious invita 
tion once made to the Divine Master, "Manifest 
thyself to the world " (John vii. 4), they also repeat 
the ambitious words, " Let us also get a name," 
and by this temerity, which we have, alas ! to deplore 
in our own time, "some priests fell in battle: wishing 
to do great things, they went out without prudence " 
(i Mace. v. 57, 67). 


The true reformer, on the contrary, " seeks not his 
own glory, but the glory of Him who hath sent him " 
(John vii. 18), and like Christ, his Exemplar, "he 
shall not contend nor cry, and his voice shall not be 
heard abroad ; he shall not be turbulent or unquiet " 

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(Isa. xliii. 2 et seq. ; Matt. xii. 19), but he shall be 
"meek and humble of heart" (Matt. xi. 29). Hence 
he will please the Lord and bear most copious fruits 
of salvation. 

In still another way are they distinguished from one 
another, for the false " reformer trusteth in man and 
maketh flesh his arm " (Jer. xvii. 5) ; while the true 
reformer puts all his trust in God, and looks to Him 
and to supernatural assistance for all his strength and 
virtue, exclaiming with the Apostle : " All things I 
can do in Him who strengtheneth me" (Phil. iv. 13). 

These aids, which Christ has communicated in rich 
abundance, the faithful reformer looks for in the 
Church itself, to which they have been given for the 
salvation of all, and among them especially prayer, 
sacrifice, the Sacraments, which become " a fountain of 
water springing up to life everlasting " (John iv. 14). 
But all such means are repugnant to those who by 
crooked ways and in forgetfulness of God busy them 
selves with reformation, and who never cease trying 
to render turbid or dried up altogether those crystal 
springs, so that the flock of Christ may be deprived of 
them. And here they are even surpassed by their 
modern followers, who under a mask of the deepest 
religiousness hold in no account these means of 
salvation, and throw discredit on them, especially the 
two Sacraments by which sin is pardoned for penitent 
souls, and souls are strengthened with celestial food. 
Let all faithful pastors, therefore, endeavour with all 
zeal to insure that benefits of such great price be held 
in the highest honour, nor suffer these two works of 
Divine charity to languish in the affections of men. 

xxxiii c 

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Such was the conduct of Borromeo, among whose 
writings we read : " Since the fruit of the Sacraments 
is so great and so abundant that its value cannot 
easily be explained, they should be treated and 
received with the utmost diligence, with the deepest 
piety of the soul, and with external cult and venera 
tion" (Cone. Prov. I., Pars ii.). Most worthy of note 
also are the recommendations with which he exhorts 
parish priests and preachers to revive the ancient 
practice of frequent Communion, as we have also 
done by our decree " Tridentina Synodus." " Parish 
priests and preachers," says the holy Bishop, " should 
exhort the people as often as possible to the most 
salutary practice of receiving the Holy Eucharist 
frequently, relying on the institutions and examples of 
the early Church, on the recommendations of the 
most authoritative Fathers, on the doctrine of the 
Roman Catechism, which treats of this matter at 
length, and finally on the teaching of the Council of 
Trent, which would have the faithful communicate in 
every Mass, not only by receiving the Eucharist 
spiritually, but also sacramentally " (Cone. Prov. III., 
Pars i.). He describes, too, the intention and affection 
with which this sacred banquet should be approached, 
in these words: "The people should not only be 
incited to receive the most holy Sacrament frequently, 
but should also be warned how dangerous and fatal it 
is to approach unworthily this sacred table of Divine 
food" (Cone. Prov. IV., Pars ii.). The same diligence 
would seem to be especially necessary in our times of 
vacillating faith and charity grown cold, in order that 

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the increase in frequency may not be accompanied by 
a diminution in the reverence due to so great a 
mystery, but that rather it may bring with it a motive 
to make "a man prove himself, and so eat of that 
bread and drink of that chalice " (i Cor. xi. 28). 

From these founts will well up a rich spring of 
grace, giving vigour also to natural and human means. 
Nor will the action of the Christian despise the things 
of use and comfort for life, for these, too, come from 
God, the Author of grace and of Nature ; but it will 
take the utmost care, when seeking and enjoying 
external things and the goods of the body, not to 
make of them the end and happiness of all life. Let 
him, therefore, who would use the means with recti 
tude and temperance, order them to the salvation of 
souls, in obedience to the words of Christ : " Seek 
first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all 
these things shall be added unto you" (Luke xii. 31 ; 
Matt. vi. 33). 

So far is this wise and ordered use of the means 
from being opposed to the welfare of civil society that, 
on the contrary, it greatly promotes the latter and 
not by vain boasting, as is the fashion with factious 
reformers, but by facts and by supreme effort, even to 
the sacrifice of substance, strength, and life itself. Of 
this fortitude we have many examples in Bishops 
who, in evil days for the Church, emulating the zeal 
of Charles, verify the words of the Divine Master : 
" The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep " 
(John x. n). 

They are led to sacrifice themselves for the common 
good, influenced not by ambition for glory, or by party 
spirit, or by the stimulus of any private interest, but 

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by that charity which never faileth. Kindled by this 
flame, which escapes profane eyes, Borromeo, after 
having exposed his life in attending the victims of the 
plague, did not confine himself to affording aid against 
present evils, but turned his solicitude to those which 
the future might have in store : " It is altogether 
reasonable that, just as an excellent father who loves 
his children with a single-hearted affection provides 
for their future as well as their present, by preparing 
for them what is necessary for their lives, so we, 
moved by the duty of paternal love, are making pro 
vision with all foresight for the faithful of our province, 
and are preparing for the future those aids which we 
have known by experience during the time of the 
plague to be salutary" (Cone. Prov. V., Pars ii.). 

The same designs and plans of affectionate fore 
thought, Venerable Brethren, find a practical applica 
tion in that Catholic action which we have frequently 
recommended. To take part in this most noble 
apostolate, which embraces all the works of mercy 
that are to be rewarded with the eternal kingdom 
(Matt. xxv. 34 et seq.\ the elite are called. But when 
they assume this burden they must be ready and fit to 
make a complete sacrifice of themselves and all things 
belonging to them for the good cause, to bear envy, 
contradiction, and even hatred, of many who will repay 
their benefits with ingratitude, to labour like "good 
soldiers of Christ" (2 Tim. ii. 3), to run "by patience 
to the fight proposed to us, looking on Jesus, the 
Author and Finisher of faith " (Heb. xii. i, 2). A con 
flict, assuredly, of great difficulty, but one that is most 
efficacious for the well-being of civil society, even 
though complete victory be slow in coming. 

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In this respect, too, it is given to us to admire the 
splendid example set by St. Charles, and to derive 
from it, each according to his own condition, matter 
for imitation and comfort. For although his singulai 
virtue, his marvellous activity, and his abundant 
charity, made him worthy of so much respect, yet 
even he was not exempt from the law : " All that will 
live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" 
(2 Tim. iii. 12). Thus, the very fact that he led a very 
austere life, that he always stood up for righteousness 
and honesty, that he was an incorruptible defender of 
law and justice, brought upon him the hostility of 
powerful men and the trickeries of diplomats, caused 
him later to be distrusted by the nobility, the clergy, 
and the people, and eventually drew upon him the 
deadly hatred of the wicked, so that his very life was 
sought. Yet, though of a mild and gentle disposition, 
he held out against all this with invincible courage. 

Never did he yield in anything that would be 
hurtful to faith and morals, or in the face of claims 
contrary to discipline or burdensome on the faithful, 
even when these were made by a most powerful 
monarch who was also a Catholic. Mindful of the 
words of Christ, " Give unto Caesar the things that 
are Caesar s, and to God the things that are God s " 
(Matt. xxii. 21), and of the declaration of the 
Apostles, " It is better to obey God rather than 
men " (Acts v. 29), he became a supreme benefactor, 
not only of the cause of religion, but of civil society 
itself, which, paying the penalty of its foolish impru 
dence, and almost overwhelmed by the storms of 

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sedition which itself had raised, was rushing upon 
certain destruction. 


The same praise and gratitude will be due to the 
Catholics of our time, and to their courageous leaders 
the Bishops, when they never fail in any of the duties 
of good citizens, either when it is a question of show 
ing loyalty and respect to wicked rulers, when these 
command what is just, or of resisting their commands 
when they are iniquitous, holding themselves equally 
aloof from the froward rebellion of those who have 
recourse to sedition and tumult, and from the servile 
abjection of those who receive as sacred laws the 
manifestly impious statutes of perverse men who, 
under the lying name of liberty, subvert all things, 
and impose on those subject to them the harshest kind 
of tyranny. 

This is happening in the sight of the whole world, 
and in the full light of modern civilization, in some 
nations especially, where the powers of darkness 
seem to have taken up their headquarters. Under 
this domineering tyranny all the rights of the children 
of the Church are being trampled upon, and the 
hearts of those in power have become closed to 
all those sentiments of generosity, courtesy, and 
faith, which for so long shone forth in their forefathers 
who gloried in the name of Christians. But it is 
evident that where hatred of God and of the Church 
exists everything goes backward precipitously towards 
the barbarism of ancient liberty, or, rather, towards 
that most cruel yoke from which only the family of 
Christ and the education introduced by it has freed 

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us. Borromeo expressed the same thought when he 
said : " It is a certain and well-recognized fact that by 
no other crime is God more gravely offended, by none 
provoked to greater wrath, than by the vice of heresy, 
and that nothing contributes more to the ruin of 
provinces and kingdoms than this frightful pest " 
(Cone. Prov. V., Pars i.). Yet as far more deadly 
must be regarded the modern conspiracy to tear 
Christian nations from the bosom of the Church, as 
we have already said. 

For the enemies of the Church, although in utter 
discord of thought and will among themselves, which 
is the sure mark of error, are at one only in their 
obstinate assaults upon truth and justice ; and as the 
Church is the guardian and defender of both of those, 
against the Church alone they close up their ranks for 
a united attack. And although they are wont to 
proclaim their impartiality and to assert that they are 
promoting the cause of peace, in reality, by their mild 
words and avowed intentions, they are only laying 
snares to add insult to injury, treason to violence. A 
new species of war is, therefore, now being waged 
against Christianity, and one far more dangerous than 
those conflicts of other times in which Borromeo won 
so much glory. 

But taking example and instruction from him, we 
shall be animated to battle vigorously for those lofty 
interests upon which depends the salvation of the 
individual and of society, for faith and religion and the 
inviolability of public right ; we shall fight, it is true, 
under the spur of a bitter necessity, but at the same 
time cheered by the fair hope that the omnipotence 
of God will speed the victory for those who fight so 

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glorious a battle a hope which gathers greater strength 
from the powerful efficacy, persisting down to our 
own days, of the work done by St. Charles both in 
humbling pride and in strengthening the resolution to 
restore all things in Christ. 

And now, Venerable Brethren, we may conclude in 
the words with which our predecessor, Paul V., 
already several times mentioned, concluded the 
letters decreeing the supreme honours to Charles : 
"It is right, meanwhile, that we render glory and 
honour and blessing to Him who lives through all 
ages, who blessed our fellow-servant with all spiritual 
benediction to make him holy and spotless in His 
sight. And the Lord having given him to us as a 
star shining in this night of sin and of our tribulation, 
let us have recourse to the Divine clemency, suppli 
cating by mouth and deed that Charles, who loved 
the Church so ardently and helped her so greatly by 
his merits and example, may now assist her by his 
patronage, and in the day of wrath make peace for us 
through Christ our Lord (Bull. " Unigenitus"). 

To this prayer be added for the fulfilment of all 
hopes the token of the Apostolic Benediction, which 
with warm affection we impart to you, Venerable 
Brethren, and to the clergy and people of each one 
of you. 

Given at Rome at St. Peter s, May 26, 1910, in the 
seventh year of our pontificate. 





" And the brightness of God shone round about them." 

ON the night of October 2, 1538, the inhabitants 
of Arona were dazzled by the rays of a brilliant 
light shaped like a rainbow. This strange phe 
nomenon flashed through the sky, passing from 
west to east, shining over the tower where the 
sentinels were on guard, and finally resting over 
the room of the " Rocca d Arona " in which 
Margaret Borromeo lay awaiting the birth of her 
child ; and while this celestial splendour shone 
over and around her, Charles Borromeo was 

In this wonderful way it pleased Heaven to 
announce to the world the advent of a great 
reformer and a glorious saint. It looked as though 
God wished, from the very moment of his entrance 
into life, to make known that he would in future 
days be a burning and a shining light. 

At his canonization persons said that they had 

I B 

St. Charles Borromeo 

witnessed this marvel. The Rocca d Arona no 
longer exists. In 1800 Napoleon Bonaparte com 
manded that it should be destroyed, and at the 
present day one sees only ruined walls, but from 
the stones and debris some pious people erected 
a little chapel in honour of St. Charles. Anti 
quaries tell us that it is on the site of the room in 
which he was born, and which was, with charming 
aptness, styled " the room of the three lakes," 
because from each of its three windows a different 
view was obtained of the lovely Lago Maggiore. 

Beside this little oratory towers the colossal 
statue in bronze of our saint, that stupendous 
figure that dominates the country for miles, and 
which one can see almost from the moment the 
steamer leaves the enchanting island of Isola 
Madre until we land at the pretty quay of 
Arona. From there it is but a short drive, a 
distance of only two and a half or three miles. 
It is, however, a dreadfully hot ride on a sultry 
day, for there is but little shade, and an Italian 
sun, though glorious and brilliant, is at noonday 
and for some hours after just a trifle too glorious 
and brilliant. The best time to visit the ruins of 
the Rocca, the statue, and the chapel, is in the 
early morning; for not only is it pleasanter, it is 
also more conducive to devotion, for one may be 
fortunate enough to assist at Holy Mass in the 
little oratory hallowed by so many pious memories. 
Priests travelling either for amusement or busi 
ness generally make a point of spending a night 


The Brightness of God 

at Arena, and offering up the Holy Sacrifice on 
the following morning in this blessed spot. 

At the time of the birth of Charles, the Church 
was in a most deplorable state ; never was there 
such pressing need of an orthodox reformer. 
Luther had started his so-called Reformation 
twenty-one years previously, and he and his 
followers, under the semblance of piety and zeal, 
had brought devastation into the Fold, and had 
led astray and ruined many. Their heresies and 
false doctrines had caused the very names of 
Reformer and Reformation to be regarded with 
fear and horror by all good Catholics ; but now 
the acceptable time had arrived, the day of salva 
tion was at hand, when a new era was to give 
fresh life and vigour to the True Church, and 
Charles Borromeo was predestined from the 
moment of his birth to become the champion of 
the Faith, the defender of the liberties of Holy 
Church, and the reformer of the many laxities 
and evils that had crept in during the sensuous, 
beauty-worshipping period of the Renaissance. 
In a word, he was, like John the Baptist, " to give 
knowledge of salvation to His people, unto the 
remission of their sins. . . . To enlighten them that 
sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death : to 
direct our feet into the way of peace." 

Charles spent the days of his childhood at the 
old Rocca d Arona with his father, Count Gilbert 
Borromeo, and his mother, Countess Margaret, 
nee de Medici, the sister of Cardinal John de 


St. Charles Borromeo 

Medici, who, when our saint was twenty-two, was 
elected Pope, and took the name of Pius IV. 

When Charles was only twelve, another uncle 
of his, Count Cesare Borromeo, resigned the Abbey 
of San Gratiano e San Felino. It was " a family 
living "; consequently Count Gilbert immediately 
conferred it and its enormous revenues on his young 
son. Charles had not shown any very remarkable 
predilection for the ecclesiastical state, but in 
those days laymen could be titular Abbots, and 
even be created Cardinals; so, although the twelve- 
year-old boy was now a mitred Abbot, it did not 
follow that he would ever be ordained. Never 
theless, from the moment of his becoming head 
of a great monastery, he cherished the hope of 
one day being, not only in name, but in fact, a 
priest of the Most High. From the first he 
showed a nobility of soul and generosity of heart 
quite wonderful in so young a lad. He begged 
his father to allow him to give his large revenues 
to the poor. Count Gilbert, who was a just and 
pious man, agreed, pleased to see his son show 
so much virtue. Charles was delighted, and dis 
pensed almost all his income in the relief of the 
poor and afflicted. 

It is a curious fact that when his father bor 
rowed money from him Count Gilbert was often 
hard up Charles kept a strict account of the 
sums lent, and insisted that they should be repaid, 
so resolved was he that not a penny of Church 
property should be appropriated by his family. 


The Brightness of God 

He reserved a very small sum for his ?wn wants, 
only what was barely necessary to support him 
and supply him with books and clothes. Thus 
early in life he displayed that extraordinary exacti 
tude and extreme conscientiousness that he after 
wards carried almost too far, but which enabled 
him successfully to achieve numerous reforms. 

Countess Margaret was a devoted wife and 
mother ; she and Gilbert lived happily together 
for several years, and she died when Charles was 
ten years old, leaving six children to mourn her 

Count Gilbert was warmly attached to her, and 
for a time sincerely grieved for her ; however, he 
soon married again, and a few years later, shortly 
after the death of his second wife, took unto himself 
a third helpmate. In the meantime Charles went 
to Milan to study the Humanities. There he took 
up his residence in the beautiful old palace of the 
Borromei. It is a splendid building, one of the 
few still remaining that show domestic Gothic 
architecture at its best. One of the heraldic de 
vices of the house is carved over the portico : the 
camel in a basket, the crest from which they take 
their name Borromeo (buon romeo) signifying 
the good pilgrim and his great patience. Another 
the Bit is moulded beneath the windows, and 
their famous motto, Humilitas, surmounted by a 
crown, is frequently repeated in the fresco decora 
tion of the walls. 

In this ancient home of his race, ancient even in 

St. Charles Borromeo 

the sixteenth century, the boy Charles Borromeo 
" advanced in wisdom and age, and grace with 
God and men." 

He was not a brilliant student, but he was 
conscientious and hard-working, and while he 
slowly and painfully imbibed the learning of 
Greece and Rome he avidly absorbed the tales 
of the grandeur and power of his house. Wander 
ing through the magnificent apartments, studying 
the escutcheons and the frescoes that told the 
story of his noble ancestors noble deeds, he became 
impregnated with the pride of birth that was one 
of the characteristics of his family. Proud though 
he was of his great name, he was in other respects 
humble and dutiful, and the charming letters he 
wrote to his father breathe a spirit of natural .filial 
piety as well as intense love of God. He generally^ 
addressed them " Comiti Giberto Bourhomeo 
Patri Suavissimo," telling him in a very sprightly 
and graphic way his own sayings and doings, as 
well as those of his friends and tutors. From the 
perusal we glean many interesting details relative 
to his daily life, and we can picture him as a 
gentle, studious lad, somewhat reserved, perhaps, 
and too fond of solitude, but nevertheless very 
affectionate and docile. 


IN 1554 Charles went to the University of Pavia 
to study civil and canon law. With his wonted 
energy, he immediately commenced attending 
-lectures and classes, giving his mind with ardour 
to the mastering of those abstruse and difficult 
subjects in which he had elected to take out his 

He was naturally proud and reserved, he rarely 
associated with the bulk of his fellow-students ; 
but he unbent with his friends, and was, when in 
their society, pleasant and genial. His shyness 
and diffidence made him shrink from notice, and 
few even of the professors knew what unusual 
talent, what a clever brain and active mind, lay 
hid beneath his quiet and unassuming manner ; 
thopgh one of his tutors, probably gifted with 
keen penetration, remarked to the others : " You 
do not sufficiently appreciate Charles Borromeo ; 
he will one day be an ardent reformer, and will 
do great things for God and the Church." It 
was, however, only when, having passed a stiff 
examination with extraordinary brilliancy, and the 
degree of Doctor was conferred upon him, that 


St. Charles Borromeo 

friends and foes alike realized that a man of 
surpassing genius had for some years worked 
unnoticed in their midst. All had known that he 
was a holy and virtuous youth ; indeed, his virtue 
and piety had, as is generally the case, caused 
calumniators and detractors to endeavour to 
tarnish the lustre of his name. They failed 
ignominiously, but their sneers and lies caused 
strangers to regard with suspicion, if not actual 
disfavour, the object of their hatred. 

These wretches had even tried to persuade 
Count Gilbert Borromeo that his son, if not 
actually a libertine and a spendthrift, was at any 
rate a man of no importance weak, stupid, 
and a dull clod, incapable through inertia of ever 
being a credit to his family. 

Count Gilbert was not so easily deceived. He 
had his son s letters, in which the lad uncon 
sciously laid bare his inmost soul to his " sweetest 
father." He had also heard the favourable reports 
and kindly gossip of friends and relations. Con 
sequently he remarked : " My son, when at the 
University, always conducted himself as a gentle 
man and a good Christian, and he was ever a 
great comfort to me." 

The fond father did not live to see the degree 
of Doctor of the University, with the insignia 
of the crown, ring, and cap, conferred upon his 
dearly loved boy. The good Count died some 
months previously, in August, 1558. 

On his death, Charles, though the second son, 

The Key of Italy 

was called upon to fulfil the duties of head of the 
family, the heir, Count Frederick, throwing upon 
him all the trouble of arranging matters and 
winding up affairs. 

Everything was at sixes and at sevens. Not 
only was Count Gilbert s property in apparently 
inextricable confusion ; but to add to the young 
student s annoyance, when he returned to Arona he 
discovered that Philip II., King of Spain, who at 
that period governed the duchy of Milan, had placed 
a Spanish Captain in command of the garrison at 
the Rocca d Arona, under the pretext that Count 
Frederick was too young to hold so important yet 
vulnerable a fortress, remarking that Arona was the 
key of Italy, and, if taken by the French, endless 
strife and disorder would ensue. 

Whether the once powerful, but then dis 
membered and impotent, duchy was better off as 
a fief of Spain than under the rule of France was 
a vexed question. Some preferred the Hapsburgs ; 
for when Louis XII. and his Viceroys held sway in 
the beautiful city of Milan, they had disgusted and 
alienated the people by their brutality. They had 
acted like the barbarian invaders of old, and had pil 
laged and destroyed magnificent buildings, stately 
castles, priceless art treasures. The Milanese hated 
them, and rejoiced when they were driven forth, 
and a Sforza once more governed the duchy. 

However, the reign of Massimiliano Sforza and 
that of his brother and successor, Francesco II., 
were of short duration, for the latter died in 1535, 


St. Charles Borromeo 

leaving no child to inherit the ducal throne. Milan 
once more devolved as a vacant fief to the Empire, 
and had since remained under continued subjection 
to the House of Hapsburg. Count Gilbert had 
always been a faithful adherent of that house, and 
it grieved his sons that they should apparently not 
be trusted by Philip ; for they considered his pre 
text a mere ruse, and that what he really wished 
was to hold absolute sway in the stronghold that 
had been theirs for many centuries. 

While Charles endeavoured to regain the com 
plete control of the Rocca for his brother, he little 
dreamed that one day he himself would be in all 
but name the real ruler of the duchy, his power 
ful influence and his indomitable will compelling 
the Court of Spain to yield him supremacy. 

At this early age the masterful and somewhat 
imperious temper of the young student triumphed. 
After lengthy negotiations and many pourparlers, 
he succeeded in persuading Philip and his Minister 
Ruy Gomez to dismiss the Spanish Captain, and 
instal Count Frederick as Commander of the 
Rocca. Charles gave his elder brother many wise 
and prudent counsels, exhorting him to be always 
on the alert, to stay constantly in the fortress, 
seldom to leave it, and only for a very short time, 
remarking : " In case any distinguished personages 
arrive unexpectedly, they will see for themselves 
that you personally control the garrison, and 
keep strict watch and ward over the country." 

Thus the key of Italy remained in the hands of 
the Borromei. 



PAUL IV. died in the autumn of 1559, and on the 
following Christmas Day Cardinal de Medici, the 
uncle of Charles, was unanimously elected Pope. 
He took the name of Pius IV., and was solemnly 
consecrated on January 6, 1560. 

Needless to say, the news of his election to the 
Throne of the Fisherman was joyously received 
by his relatives. Count Frederick Borromeo at 
once hastened to Rome, and Charles also set out 
as soon as possible en route for the Eternal City. 
He travelled rapidly, often taking six posts in a 
day ; but, notwithstanding all his speed, he did 
not arrive in time to be present at the august and 
sacred ceremony. 

He wrote a characteristic letter from Lodi to 
his cousin Guido Borromeo, which shows not 
only the intensity of the love and pride he cherished 
for his ancient name and the honour of his family, 
but also his natural aptitude for detail, and the 
methodical bent of his mind. 

" I write to you in order that you may get a scroll 
painted without delay with the Arms of the Borromei 
that is, with the Camel, the Bit, the Unicorn, and 


St. Charles Borromeo 

Humilitas, which compose the escutcheon of the 
Borromei, and the * bussole 51 of the Vitaliens. 2 
You will have it correctly reproduced and properly 
coloured. If it is not ready to give to John Peter 
when he sets out, be sure to forward it by a trusty 
messenger as soon after as possible. I beg of you 
not to delay, but to arrange that I may get it in 
Rome immediately on arrival. See that the 
escutcheon is well painted, and on no account 
omit getting it quickly done, and sent on to me 
without delay. Tell Signora Camilla to get the 
Nuns to make two or four very fine rochets, and 
to hurry up about it. 

" Written at Lodi, January 3, 1560." 

We dwell particularly on the pride and pleasure 
that at this period of his life the young Count 
took in his ancient lineage, in order to accentuate 
the deep humility that was so marked a trait in 
his character in after-years. It would certainly 
have seemed incredible to him then, if a prophet 
had foretold that in a few short years he, the 
scion of an illustrious house, the haughty noble, 
would for the love of Christ divest himself of all 
things, and renounce his benefices, " which having 
he was great, and casting away, greater." He not 
only did this, but he ruthlessly turned out from 

1 We fancy that this peculiar word means the three lambs 
which form part of the shield of his house. 

2 The Borromei claim to be descended from Vitalien of 
Padua, who was baptized by a disciple of St. Peter, St. Pros- 
dicime, Bishop of that town. 


Election of Pius IV. " Vatican Nights" 

the Duomo at Milan the biers of the Dukes of 
that city. They had hitherto been suspended in 
the apse between columns, but the saintly ascetic 
would have none of them ; he reformed away all 
those superb dead Visconti and Sforza, and he 
also banished the noisy life of the city that 
had found its way, like the Jews of Jerusalem 
of old, into the house of God, making a mart 
for worldly affairs, buying, selling and trafficking 
even in the sacred precincts. Thus the austere 
reformer banished all that was not pure and 
sacred from the cathedral. 

At the time of which we write Charles had not 
shown signs of the wonderful sanctity, extreme 
austerity, and devout zeal for God s glory, that 
afterwards distinguished him in so marked a 
degree. He was, it is true, a good and practical 
Catholic, but he was also a haughty noble, proud 
of his ancient name, and intensely pleased, not only 
at the new lustre the election of his uncle to the 
See of St. Peter would confer upon his family, but 
also quite alive to the material advantages he and 
his brother were likely to enjoy as nephews of the 
new Pontiff. 

When Pius IV. created him Cardinal-Deacon, 
Grand Penitentiary, Secretary of State, and 
Administrator of the See of Milan, he gladly 
accepted these dignities. Soon afterwards he was 
nominated Legate of Bologna, Romagno, and 
Ancona, Protector of Portugal, part of Germany, 
and of the Catholic cantons of Switzerland. 


St. Charles Borromeo 

The Orders of Carmel and of the Umiliati, of 
the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Coimbra, 
the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, of Malta, 
and of the Holy Cross of Christ, were also placed 
under his protection, and at that period the 
dignity of Protector of a religious Order entailed 
grave responsibilities. 

Decidedly Count Charles was overwhelmed 
with honour and wealth, and the wonder is, not 
that their splendour dazzled his eyes, but 
that he did not sink hopelessly beneath their 
weight, and become an arrogant, self-sufficient 
priest or clergyman. 

Yet, though he apparently led a life of osten 
tation and luxury, surrounded by a princely 
train of retainers and dependents, sumptuously 
installed in a magnificent palace, in the mi-dst 
of all this pride of life, this pomp and circum 
stance of high position, Charles never forgot, 
but always practised, the duties of a devout 
Christian. Every day he spent a considerable 
time in prayer and meditation, he assisted at Holy 
Mass, and frequently received the Sacraments of 
Penance and the Eucharist. 

The desire to enter the sacred ministry grew 
upon him. When quite a young lad he had 
received the tonsure, and later on Minor Orders, 
and it was understood in the family that he would 
probably one day be ordained. In the solitude 
of his own apartment he lifted his soul to God, 
praying the Holy Ghost to enlighten and direct 


Election of Pius IV. "Vatican Nights" 

him, begging for guidance in the splendid, thorny 
path it was his destiny to tread, and imploring 
that the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders 
might be given him, and that the Almighty might 
deem him worthy to serve Him as a Minister of 
His Gospel. Nor did he omit, in the midst of 
all the pomp of place and power, to practise 
constant mortification, and even severe corporal 

Yet to a certain extent he revelled in this out 
ward show, and he certainly took advantage of 
his exalted position to arrange advantageous 
marriages for his brother and sisters. 

Count Frederick espoused in 1560 Virginia de 
la Rovere, the daughter of the Duke of Urbino, 
in every respect a most desirable match ; and 
about the same time his sister, Camilla, married 
Cesare Gonzaga, Prince of Mantua. From her 
childhood Anna Borromeo had been affianced 
to Fabrizio, the son of the celebrated Constable 
Marcantonio Colonna, Viceroy of Sicily, and of 
his wife Felice Orsini. 1 She was the favourite 
sister of Charles ; consequently this alliance, 
uniting her with a scion of the two noblest and 
most distinguished of the old Roman families, gave 
him great pleasure. Their eldest sister, Isabella, 
was a nun in the Convent of the Blessed Virgin 
at Milan, and was called Sister Corona. 

1 The bride s dowry was 40,000 golden crowns, with 
interest at seven per cent. The marriage contract is pre 
served in the archives of the Colonnas. 


St. Charles Borromeo 

Another sister, Geronima, was at a convent 
school, but left in 1561, and on February 15 of 
that year the Secretary of State wrote : 

" I wish you to do your utmost to train our 
sister Geronima in the usages of polite society, 
and to break her of the manners she has con 
tracted in the convent." 

We must not, however, jump to the conclusion 
that Charles did not approve of conventual educa 
tion for young maidens ; on the contrary, he was 
of opinion that only behind the sheltering walls 
of a convent could a girl acquire solid Christian 
virtue. But, when she was older, he knew that it 
was necessary for her, under the tuition of a grande 
dame, to gain that grace and savoir-faire that, 
united to the modesty and piety taught her in 
the cloister, would make her an attractive, charm 
ing, as well as devout woman. He intended that 
Geronima should marry, so it was decidedly 
desirable that she should possess the accomplish 
ments and manners suited to the high position 
she would doubtless soon fill ; but when she left 
school, he confided his youngest sister Hortense 
to the care of the same good nuns. 

While occupied in negotiating suitable alliances 
for his family, and in attending with unwearying 
energy and precision to the affairs of his high 
offices, never neglecting any of the numberless 
occupations that filled his days, he found time to 
start those world-renowned literary and scientific 
entertainments known as the " Vatican Nights." 


Election of Pius IV. " Vatican Nights " 

These were held in one of the rooms of the 
Monastery of St. Martha at the Vatican ; and 
these feasts of reason and flow of soul were fre 
quented by the most erudite and distinguished 
men of the day. The Simonetti, Boncampagni, 
Gonzagas, Visconti, and Alciati, all gathered round 
the young Secretary of State, forming an academy 
of which he was President. He was the guiding 
star, the leader in these conferences ; and though 
at first an impediment prevented him from speak 
ing fluently, he soon overcame it, and his brilliant 
and pregnant discourses were listened to with 
bated breath and keenest interest by all these 
great and learned men. 

Each member selected a pseudonym, and prob 
ably because it was the direct opposite of his 
orderly and well-balanced mind, and would 
therefore more thoroughly conceal his identity 
from outsiders, Charles took the name of Chaos. 

At first the Academicians only discussed the 
doctrines of pagan philosophy. The rhetoric of 
Aristotle and the stoicism of Epictetus were most 
frequently the subjects selected. Charles generally 
dived into a manual of Epictetus that he carried 
about with him, making the maxims of the heroic 
Stoic the subject of his dissertations. The stern 
probity and strict morality of this pagan phi 
losopher appealed to his proud and inflexible 

Soon, however, a change came over the spirit 
of these reunions, and the learning of Greece and 

17 c 

St. Charles Borromeo 

Rome gave way to moving discourses on sacred 
subjects. The ancient philosophers and their 
maxims faded away before the splendid heroism 
and sublime doctrines of the Christian saints. 
Needless to say that above and before all they 
selected passages from the New Testament as 
their theme. 

On one occasion Charles spoke with such in 
spired eloquence on the fourth beatitude, " Beati 
qui esuriunt et sitiunt justitiam " (Blessed are they 
that hunger and thirst after justice : for they shall 
have their fill), that his audience were carried 
completely away by his burning eloquence, and 
were moved almost to tears by his tender pathos. 

These conferences were, except when he played 
on the violoncello or the lute for he was passion 
ately fond of music the only recreations Charles 
indulged in. These meetings he turned to good 
account in more ways than one, for not only did 
they afford a pleasant and intellectual distraction, 
but they also enabled him attentively to study the 
Academicians, and he was thus able to select and 
recommend to Pius IV. the men he considered 
best fitted to fill episcopal sees and receive the 
Cardinal s hat. 

Some of them afterwards worthily occupied 
exalted positions. Ugo Boncompagni became 
Sovereign Pontiff under the name of Gregory 
XIII., and Simonetti was Papal Legate at the 
Council of Trent, while others also worthily filled 
episcopal thrones. 




ON November 19, 1562, Count Frederick Borromeo 
died suddenly of a malignant fever. Charles was 
almost broken-hearted, for he and his brother had 
always been the best of friends and comrades. 
He, notwithstanding his grief, wrote as follows, 
in his usual concise manner, to his brother-in-law, 
Prince Cesare Gonzaga : 

" So great was the virulence of the fever that 
lately attacked my brother, he was but a few days 
ill, dying in an incredibly short time. He passed 
peacefully away at two o clock this morning. God 
grant that he is now in possession of the Beatific 

Frederick died childless, so Charles was now the 
sole remaining heir ; consequently all the family, 
even the Sovereign Pontiff, wished him to marry. 
But the young Cardinal-Deacon had long intended 
to become a priest, and this calamity made him 
resolve to delay no longer. He had dallied too 
long ; he had allowed press of business, State 
affairs, and his multifarious duties, to come be 
tween him and his sublime vocation. His brother s 


St. Charles Borromeo 

sudden death convinced him of the vanity and 
instability of earthly grandeur and happiness. 

" Vanity of vanities ... all is vanity. All is 
vanity and vexation of spirit. What doth it 
profit a man to gain the whole world, if he lose his 
own soul ?" 

These words of profound wisdom and of un 
deniable truth, that changed the gallant knight, 
Ignatius of Loyola, into an heroic saint, impressed 
themselves so deeply on the mind and heart of 
the splendour-loving, haughty Secretary of State 
that he became an altered man. 

It was the turning-point in his career. Up to 
the moment of his brother s sudden and painful 
death he had, as we have seen, been a proud, 
ambitious young noble high-minded, it is true, 
pure-souled, virtuous, and conscientious, but the 
loftiness of his character, the singleness of his 
aims, were marred by a too great pride of birth 
and a too keen appreciation of worldly honours. 
All was changed from the moment that he resolutely 
put his hand to the plough ; he never turned or 
glanced back, but advanced with giant strides in 
the difficult path of Christian perfection. 

He wrote as follows to his cousin, Isabella 
Borromeo Trivulzi, on December 15, 1569 : 

" I acknowledge that my brother s death has 
been of great spiritual profit to me. It has made 
me realize how great and all-pervading is human 
misery, and how happy and glorious is life ever 


Death of Count Frederick 

With his usual promptitude, he got Cardinal 
Frederick Cesar to ordain him priest in the Church 
of Santa Maria Maggiore. 

Even the Sovereign Pontiff was not in his con 
fidence ; it was only when it was an accomplished 
fact that he told Pius IV. that he had received 
the Sacrament of Holy Orders. 

The Pope was rather annoyed ; he had hoped 
that Charles would yield to his wishes and take 
unto himself a wife ; consequently he expressed 
displeasure and disappointment. There would 
now be no heir to inherit the broad lands and 
great possessions of the Borromei. On the death 
of Charles they would pass out of the direct 
line. Why had he irrevocably bound himself to 
celibacy ? 

Charles listened to this discourse with humility 
and deference ; but when the Pope had exhausted 
his complaints, he said, with a winning smile : 
" Do not be angry with me, Holy Father, for at 
last I am wedded to the Spouse I have long and 
ardently desired." 

The Pope made the best of it. Probably in his 
heart of hearts he was pleased that his nephew 
had chosen the better part, though for family 
reasons he had urged him to adopt a different 

Charles was almost immediately created Car 
dinal-Priest, and took the title-church of Santa 


St. Charles Borromeo 

On September 14, 1563, he wrote the following 
letter to his sister, Sister Corona : 

" I celebrated my first Mass on the feast of the 
glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 
at St. Peter s, on the Altar of the Confession, 
under which are buried the Holy Apostles 
SS. Peter and Paul. It is a blessed and vener 
able spot, and as I celebrated I felt inexpressible 
joy and consolation. . . . God grant that all I 
do may be for the salvation of my soul and the 
Divine service." 

There is still a little of the old leaven in 
Charles, for we note that he puts his own soul s 
salvation first, and the Divine service last. Per 
haps it was only a slip of the pen, but he was 
so methodical and exact that he was unlikely to 
dash off a letter even to his sister in haste. 
We picture him as for the first time he offered 
up the Holy Sacrifice, young, ardent, engrossed, 
his whole soul given up to the contemplation 
of the Divine mysteries. We feel sure that no 
distractions blurred his mind, that his thoughts 
were clear and well defined like his features. 

His face as it was in later life is familiar to all 
of us, clean-shaven, with a remarkably large 
aquiline nose, straight brows, deep-set bright blue 
eyes, short upper lip, large mouth, and firm chin. 
His is the face of an enthusiast, an ascetic worn 
and wasted, the eyes glowing with unquenchable 
fire, with unconquerable resolution. But when he 
celebrated his first Holy Mass his countenance 


Death of Count Frederick 

had the freshness and roundness of youth, he 
wore a short chestnut beard, and his eyes could 
still sparkle with joyous life. 

The Confession or Shrine of SS. Peter and Paul 
opens from the centre of the circular passage in 
the crypt at St. Peter s. Only half the bodies of 
the saints are preserved there ; the other portion 
of St. Peter is at the Lateran, and of St. Paul at 
S. Paolo fuori le Mura. 

Yet the spot where St. Charles celebrated his 
first Mass is one of the most sacred in the world, 
and is unutterably dear to all Catholics, for, as 
St. Ambrose says : 

" Where Peter is, there is the Church ; and 
where the Church is, there is no death, but life 
eternal ;" and St. John Chrysostom writes in his 
" Homily on the Epistle to the Romans ": " From 
this place Peter, from this place Paul, shall be 
caught up in the resurrection. Oh, consider with 
trembling that which Rome will behold when 
Paul suddenly rises with Peter from this sepulchre, 
and is carried up into the air to meet the Lord !" 

No wonder that in that twice-hallowed place 
the soul of Charles Borromeo was filled with 
Divine love and holy fervour. 

To some of us the altar on which he offered up 
his second Mass is even more devotional, certainly 
more interesting. Great and glorious saints the 
Prince of the Apostles and the Apostle of the 
Gentiles undeniably are, reverenced and honoured 
as they must always be above all others ; yet the 


St. Charles Borromeo 

altar in the little chapel of the Convent of the 
Gesu, on which Ignatius of Loyola constantly 
celebrated, appeals more strongly to us. 

The saintly founder of the Society of Jesus lived 
in a time much nearer to our own than the Holy 
Apostles ; consequently it is much easier for us in 
this twentieth century to realize his striking and 
attractive personality. Our thoughts and hearts 
are drawn irresistibly towards him, and we fancy 
we know what Charles must have felt when, only 
six years after the death of St. Ignatius, he 
officiated at the altar hallowed by sacred memories 
of the soldier-saint. 

Of course St. Ignatius was not yet canonized, 
but all Rome, indeed all Christendom, reverenced 
and loved him. He was called II Santo ; the fame 
of his wonderful sanctity had spread far and near. 
His sons were already preaching the Gospel of 
Christ in distant lands, converting the heathen, 
bringing faith and love and hope, not only into 
countries sunk in the darkness of paganism, but 
into the fair lands that had once been Catholic, 
but had unfortunately lost the true Faith, and 
had become a prey to the ravages of heresy. 

Charles, who was soon to be the dauntless 
champion of Catholicism, the inflexible defender 
of the rights of Holy Church, chose for his director 
a holy and learned priest of the Society that has 
more than any other helped to suppress heresy by 
converting heretics, and has pledged itself in all 
things and in all ways to yield implicit obedience 
to Christ s Vicar on earth. 


Death of Count Frederick 

This saintly man was John Baptist Ribera, and 
he was at this period Procurator-General of the 
Society. He was remarkably clear-sighted, level 
headed, and dowered in an unusual degree with 
the gift to read and understand the minds of 

From the first he recognized in the young 
Cardinal the makings of an heroic saint. Gradually 
he led him upward, onward, helping to curb the 
intense pride that was the keynote of Charles s 
character. Believing that God turns all to good 
for those who love Him, the adroit and ardent 
Jesuit worked on this trait in the character of his 
penitent, making it become to Charles an aid 
instead of an obstacle to the sanctification of his 

Charles retired to the Gesu, in order to follow 
the exercises of St. Ignatius under the guidance 
of Father Ribera. The effect of these medita 
tions was to make him feel such an ardent 
and overmastering desire to give himself wholly 
to God that he wished to leave the world and 
enter an Order of the Strict Observance. " I 
wish," he said, " to live as though there were only 
God and myself in the world." 

It was not, however, the Divine will that so 
bright a light should be hidden in a cloistered cell ; 
it was needed to illumine the darkness of the 
world, and so, his retreat finished, Charles returned 
to the Vatican, once more taking up the burdens 
of office, and assisting in every way the aged 




ONE of the greatest, if not the greatest event in 
the life of Charles Borromeo was the renewal and 
successful termination of the Council of Trent. 

It was the young Secretary of State who un 
ceasingly urged Pius IV. to reopen the Council, 
constantly encouraging the Sovereign Pontiff, and 
tactfully persuading the Cardinals assembled in 
Consistory to unite their entreaties to his. He 
and they finally triumphed, for at last the Pope 
yielded to their arguments. Charles was the 
instrument under Providence who caused peace 
and concord to reign in the Church by means of 
a lasting and solid reformation. 

One of the most important of the (Ecumenical 
Councils sat at Trent, though with frequent 
interruptions, from December 13, 1545, until 
December n, 1563. From the very beginning 
of the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants 
had both called for a Council. Luther desired 
one in order that it should decree that the 
Scriptures should be accepted as the sole rule 
of religion. 

The Emperor Charles V., and most of the 

The Council of Trent 

Catholic Princes, desired one for the reformation 
of abuses in ecclesiastical government and dis 

The Pope, the Cardinals and clergy, recognized 
this need of reform "in the head and members"; 
they also desired to define more clearly Christian 
doctrine, condemn the new heresies, strengthen 
the bonds of unity, and consolidate the power of 
the Sovereign Pontiff. After many difficulties 
Paul III. succeeded in opening the Council at 
Trent on December 13, 1545. It was under the 
presidency of three Papal Legates, Cardinals del 
Monte, Reginald Pole, and Cervini. 

Unfortunately, England was at this time lost 
to the Church, but Cardinal Pole was not without 
hope that she might yet be recovered and saved. 
The Council held many sessions until September, 
1547, when it was suspended. 

In February, 1550, Cardinal del Monte was 
elected Pope, taking the name of Julius III. In 
the following year, in May, 1551, he opened the 
eleventh session of the Council, under the presi 
dency of Cardinal Crescenzio. It lasted a year ; 
but in April, 1552, Prince Maurice of Saxony, 
by his military successes, caused it to be again 

Years passed. Julius III. was succeeded by 
Cardinal Cervini as Marcellus II., and he in his 
turn by Paul IV. 

In the meantime the Emperor Charles V. had 
abdicated, Elizabeth of England was seeking an 


St. Charles Borromeo 

alliance with the Protestant Princes of Germany, 
and was doing her utmost to aid the Huguenots 
in France. Philip II. of Spain was antagonistic 
to the Vatican, desiring to place the authority of 
the State above that of the Church ; and unhappy 
France, the eldest daughter of the Church, was 
torn by political parties, Guises and Conde"s, 
Protestants and Catholics, in turn holding sway ; 
while Catherine de Medici, ruling for her young 
sons, inclined to each in turn, in everything seek 
ing only her own aggrandisement, and utterly 
regardless of the interests of religion. It was 
when matters had been for some time in this 
unsatisfactory state that St. Charles succeeded in 
persuading Pius IV. to reopen the Council in 
1562. This third period is the most important ; 
it started with the seventeenth session, held in 
May, 1562. Doctrinal decrees were issued on 
Holy Mass, purgatory, the veneration of the 
saints, indulgences, the education of priests, the 
duties of Bishops, the censorship of books, and 
other vexed questions. Clandestine marriages 
were declared invalid, and the office of questor of 
alms was abolished. The decrees of the Council 
were confirmed on January 26, 1564, by the Pope, 
who in the same year published the Profession of 
the Tridentine Faith. 

The publication of the decrees of the Sacred 
Council was received with universal joy throughout 
Christendom. It was the signal for a renewal of 
life and energy in the true Fold ; devout Catholics 


The Council of Trent 

became holier, and helped to diffuse among their 
neighbours a spirit of ardent reform and purified 
discipline. The Pope, speaking in Consistory, 
said : 

"This day, my brethren, gives us of a truth 
new life, and binds us to amend all that is wrong, 
since the authority of the Council has restored 
the purity of discipline, and given to the ministers 
of the sanctuary a holy and exact rule of life. 
We acknowledge and approve the pious and 
patient zeal of the fathers of the Council, in that 
they have set themselves with great diligence and 
much toil, with gentleness and moderation, to 
root out all heresy and evil customs. Wherefore it 
is our will that the decrees of the Sacred Council 
be observed, and its discipline carried out." 

The revival and reformation of the Church 
had been triumphantly effected, mainly through 
the instrumentality of Charles Borromeo, for it 
was he who induced the Pope to gather together 
a Council of saintly and erudite men, who under 
the guidance of the Holy Spirit gave forth to 
the Church the glorious Decrees and Canons of 

He did more, for it was through his tact and 
diplomacy that the opposition of the French 
prelates was vanquished. Indeed, it is believed 
that he saved France from the evils of heresy. He 
also pacified the other European Powers, causing 
them to consent that the Council should be re 
opened at Trent. 


St. Charles Borromeo 

While the Legates, Cardinals, and Bishops, sat 
in conclave, they sent Charles an exact account 
of their debates, and consulted him on the most 
difficult questions. He related these communica 
tions to the Pope, and to a number of men learned 
in theology. Having heard their opinions, he 
wrote to the Legates, pointing out to them the 
line of conduct the Sovereign Pontiff wished them 
to pursue ; thus practically the whole work of the 
Council passed through his hands, for the entire 
correspondence connected with it was personally 
conducted by him. He, though absent in body, 
was the life and soul of the Sacred Council ; his 
keen intellect advised, his dauntless courage 
animated, his strong will dominated, and his 
untiring perseverance brought to a triumphant 
end the greatest of the (Ecumenical Councils. 



THE Council of Trent thus brought to a successful 
and glorious termination, the Sovereign Pontiff, 
the Princes and pastors of the Church, devoted 
themselves to the task of carrying out its decrees. 

Foremost and most zealous in this strenuous 
work was Charles Borromeo. He ably co-operated 
with the erudite prelates and distinguished literary 
men whom Pius had selected to compose the 
Catechism of Trent, a work which is, as we all 
know, a complete and perfect abridgment of 
Catholic theology. It was not, however, pub 
lished during the lifetime of Pius IV., though it 
was in the press. On the accession of St. Pius V., 
he got it carefully revised by another Commission, 
having Cardinal Serletti as President, and Pogiani 
as Secretary. 

In the month of September, 1566, two editions 
appeared, one in Latin, and the other in Italian. 

Charles also helped considerably in the revision 
of the Breviary and the Missal. His time was 
fully taken up with these difficult tasks, but, like 
most persons who have plenty to do, he generally 

St. Charles Borromeo 

found time to do more. It is only the indolent 
and the frivolous who, while frittering away the 
precious hours, never have a spare moment. 

In 1564 Charles started restoring and finished 
rebuilding his church of St. Prassede. During the 
absence of the Popes at Avignon it had become 
almost a ruin. Nicolas V. had commenced its 
restoration, and now in an incredibly short time 
Charles finished this work. Some people say he 
spoiled the general effect by introducing injudicious 
modernizations that do not harmonize with the 
low campanile, the porch, and the terra-cotta 
mosaics and cornices, the parts that still remain 
of the old church erected by Paschal I. in the 
ninth century. It is a matter of taste. It is, 
however, certain that Charles got the work 
executed in the way that he considered best. 
At any rate it is a church full of historical interest, 
if not of perfect architecture, for St. Prassede was 
the daughter of Pudens, in whose house St. Paul 
lodged, and sister of St. Pudentiana, and they 
were among his first converts. An oratory was 
erected on the site where the sisters were buried 
by Pius I. in 499, but at the present day their 
bodies are interred under the high-altar. 

The greatest treasure of the church is not, how 
ever, the bodies of these holy women, but the 
column to which Jesus Christ was bound and 
scourged. Every year thousands of devout pilgrims 
visit this sacred relic. It was brought to Rome in 
1223 by Cardinal Giovanni Colonna, having been 


The Church of Peace 

given to him by the Saracens, because when Car 
dinal of St. Prassede and Legate of the Crusade he 
had been taken prisoner by them and condemned 
to death, and he was rescued by a miraculous inter 
vention of heavenly light. 

Notwithstanding its architectural defects, it is a 
peaceful and devotional church. " St. Praxed s 
ever was the church for peace." 

After and during its restoration the young 
Cardinal frequently came to pray in the restful 
little chapel in the left aisle, or to meditate in the 
cloisters, where the orange-tree he planted still 
flourishes and bears golden fruit. The little 
chapel is now called by his name, and in it are 
preserved his episcopal throne it is only an 
ordinary wooden chair and the table at which 
he used to wait upon and feed twelve poor men 
every day. For Charles loved the poor with a 
consuming passion, helped them in every way, 
becoming like unto a servant that he might the 
better and more efficaciously tend and nourish 
them. He gave them not only money, food, and 
clothes, but himself his time, his heart, his whole 
generous soul, believing that 

" The Holy Supper is kept indeed 
In whatso we share with another s need ; 
Not what we give, but what we share, 
For the gift without the giver is bare. 
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three, 
Himself, his hungering neighbour, and Me." 

While in Rome he spent nearly every penny he 
possessed in charity, only reserving a sufficient 

33 D 

St. Charles Borromeo 

amount to pay his attendants, buy the necessaries 
of life, and keep his house in order. He had for 
sworn splendour, he no longer fared sumptuously 
or went in silk attire ; on the contrary, a crust of 
bread, taken with dried figs and raisins or a few 
nuts, was his only food, water his only drink, and 
he wore raiment of the cheapest and simplest 
material consistent with the dignity of a Prince 
of the Church. He dismissed most of his staff, 
keeping the smallest possible number of priests 
and domestics. At this time he was fortunately 
able to turn another of his passions to the Divine 
service his love of music. The Council of Trent 
had called the attention of the Pope and the 
Bishops to the fact that worldly and unseemly 
chants were used in the churches. They could, 
indeed, scarcely be dignified with that name, for 
they were as often as not gay, rollicking airs, 
trolled forth with such verve that it was im 
possible to pray, or to attend with fitting rever 
ence and devotion to the Holy Sacrifice ; for these 
varied, loud and persistent melodies quite drowned 
the voice of the celebrant. It was resolved that 
the Gregorian chant, or something closely re 
sembling it, should be used ; consequently a 
Commission was appointed by Pius IV. to under 
take the reform of Church music. 

Who better fitted to direct this assembly than 
the Cardinal, who played with such artistic skill 
and melodious sweetness both on the lute and the 
violoncello, whose expert fingers brought forth 


The Church of Peace 

from these instruments strains of such surpassing 
melody that they were often able to soothe and 
refresh the overworked aged Pope in moments of 
weariness and pain ? 

Charles employed the celebrated musician Pier 
Luigi (he was generally called by the name of his 
native town, Palestrina) to compose three Masses ; 
the most beautiful of these chefs-d oeuvre was called 
the " Mass of Pope Marcellus," and is well-known 
throughout Christendom. When Pius IV. heard it 
for the first time, he exclaimed, "These sublime 
melodies must be those heavenly canticles that the 
Apostle St. John heard in the New Jerusalem " ; 
and he applied to it, with a slight alteration, Dante s 
verses, " They render voice to voice in modulation 
and sweetness that cannot be comprehended ex 
cepting there where joy is made eternal." 

Palestrina became the friend of Charles 
Borromeo, as he was already of Philip Neri, the 
gentle and seraphic saint who loved and appre 
ciated sweet melodies so dearly that he wrote in 
his rule " that his sons and the Faithful should 
rouse themselves to the contemplation of heavenly 
things by means of musical harmony." 

Palestrina was in 1565 appointed composer to 
the Papal chapel, and universally recognized as the 
reformer of sacred music. 

The friendship that in consequence sprang up 
between these three passionate lovers of beautiful 
music the noble Cardinal, the humble priest, and 
the world-renowned musician was one of rare 


St. Charles Borromeo 

strength and depth. They were all three different 
in character, in position, in appearance, and yet 
all three were drawn closely together, first by a 
great mutual love of music, and afterwards, when 
they knew each other better, by the knowledge 
that all three loved their Saviour with unquench 
able ardour. Of course, Palestrina was not a 
saint like Philip and Charles, but he was a good 
practical Catholic, who devoted his incomparable 
genius to the Divine service. 

St. Philip Neri was at this time about fifty years 
old, and Charles was twenty-five; the difference 
in age of a quarter of a century only helped to 
strengthen the bonds of their friendship. Charles 
felt for the saintly Apostle of Rome sincere venera 
tion mingled with warm affection, treating St. 
Philip with the deference and humility of a 
disciple; and the gentle "Apostle" on his side 
showed considerable admiration and esteem for 
the Secretary of State s powerful intellect, sound 
common-sense, strict integrity, and generous devo 
tion to the poor and suffering. Philip was a man 
of such surpassing sanctity that to know him was 
not only a liberal, but a holy education. He had a 
gentle, kindly disposition, a fatherly and benevolent 
way with him that fascinated most people as abso 
lutely as his winning smile and his soft, low voice. 
Chatles, as we have seen, was reserved, austere, 
somewhat rigid and unbending. He did not talk 
much, being of a silent, self-contained nature ; he 
hardly ever laughed aloud, but his rare smile was 


The Church of Peace 

like a flash of summer, it was so spontaneous 
and genial. Philip, on the contrary, not only 
smiled frequently, but laughed heartily, thoroughly 
enjoying a joke or a bon mot. Indeed, he himself 
often indulged in harmless pleasantries, and could 
relate an amusing anecdote in a joyous and 
humorous manner. Notwithstanding these differ 
ences in outward seeming, they were interiorily so 
alike that these little disparities only drew them 
closer together, as opposite natures generally 
revere and admire each other, venerating and 
appreciating the gifts they do not themselves 

Charles and Philip were, however, alike in 
essentials; they both possessed angelic purity of 
soul, noble, intellectual, and liberal minds, and 
loyal, courageous, generous hearts. Both were 
inflamed by the same seraphic love of God, 
burning zeal for souls, and an unbounded devotion 
to the poor and afflicted members of Christ s 
flock. So great was the esteem and veneration in 
which the Cardinal held the humble priest of the 
Oratory, that, when leaving Rome to take posses 
sion of his See of Milan, he confided to Philip s 
spiritual guidance his beloved sister, Princess Anna 

From that period until her death in 1582, Anna 
was Philip s penitent, and under his direction 
attained to great and rare perfection. In the 
midst of the luxury and splendour of the Colonna 
palace, she led a life of a humble and fervent 


St. Charles Borromeo 

Christian. She had no children, and this was a 
terrible trial to her. She often confided her 
sorrow to Philip, and one day he said : " Do not 
grieve, Anna ; your trouble will not last long, for 
you will have two sons." 

Afterwards she said that she owed her boys to 
the intercession of St. Philip, and that they were 
the children of prayer. Her connection with the 
Apostle of Rome drew closer together the ties of 
friendship that bound him and her brother, the 
Archbishop of Milan ; and after Charles had gone 
to his See he frequently wrote long and interesting 
letters to Philip, who replied in his usual pleasant 
manner, and, though absent in body, they 
remained affectionately united in spirit, and their 
mutual love and esteem constantly increased and 

In a letter to Anna, Charles writes in 1571 : 

" I look upon it as a precious blessing that you 
find such great consolation and support in your 
frequent conversations with Father Philip, and in 
his direction of your soul. Wherefore I beg of you 
to persevere in this way of life, and to strengthen 
within you these beginnings of the spiritual life by 
reading the pious books and performing the pious 
exercises Father Philip recommends. I am certain 
that you will thus advance rapidly towards perfec 
tion, and that your soul will be in such peace that 
you will always rejoice and be glad in our Lord." 

In 1572 he again wrote : " I received your 
letter and the blessed medal Father Philip gave 


The Church of Peace 

you for me. It is very dear to me for his sake as 
well as for yours. Thank him for this second 
spiritual treasure given to me, and be sure you let 
me know what indulgences are attached to the 
medal. I am delighted to hear that Signor 
Marcantonio frequently attends the sermons and 
spiritual exercises at St. Geronimo. I am con 
fident that his piety will cause him to reap great 
benefit, and even pleasure, from them, and that 
his example will lead others to frequent these 

Thus this holy friendship ripened and these 
chosen souls were drawn closer together, through 
their fervent love of their Redeemer. 

At last Charles was about to realize his heart s 
desire, and take formal possession of his See of 
Milan ; for it was only after long and weary waiting 
that his uncle, the Sovereign Pontiff, consented to 
part with this nephew who was the prop and the 
comfort of his declining years. 



ALTHOUGH several months had passed since 
Charles Borromeo had been nominated Arch 
bishop of Milan, it was not until December 7, 
1563, the feast of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 
that he was consecrated. 

The officiating prelate was Cardinal John 
Anthony Serbellone, assisted by the Archbishop 
Tholome e Sepontino and Felix Tyranno. 

On March 23 of the following year Cardinal 
Alexander Farnese conferred on him the pallium 
with all the usual magnificent ceremonies. 

Charles ardently desired to take formal posses 
sion of his See, but the Pope would not allow 
him to leave Rome. Unable to go in person, he 
sent his Vicar, Anthony Roberti, to represent him. 
This good priest was welcomed with open arms by 
the Milanese. It was eighty years since they had 
had a resident Archbishop, and many of them had 
not only never received, but had never witnessed 
the conferring of, the Sacrament of Confirmation, 
a strange and deplorable fact, particularly in a 
city so famed in former times for the sanctity of 


The City of the Plains 

both pastors and people. It might in the early 
ages of Christianity have been called the City of 
Saints, for it counted thirty-six canonized saints 
among its prelates ; among these were St. 
Barnabas, who was the first Bishop, and St. 
Ambrose, who before the coming of Charles was 
the greatest. 

On June 24, 1563, Charles had sent Father 
Palmio, S.J., and Father Carvagial, S.J., to pre 
pare Milan to adopt the reforms decreed by the 
Council of Trent. They opened schools for the 
education of children, and did what they could 
to effect reforms ; but it was absolutely impossible 
to bring their labours to a successful termination 
while the Archbishop was absent. Consequently, 
Charles implored Pius IV. to allow him to set out 
for his See and to assemble the Suffragan Bishops 
they were seventeen in number at a Provincial 
Council. Accordingly, in September, 1563, Charles 
was at last permitted to leave Rome. He travelled 
through Florence and Bologna, and was deeply 
grieved at the sad state of affairs in Tuscany. 
He wrote to the Pope : 

"The Grand- Duke of Florence greatly praises 
the Bishops of Fiesole and Sienna, but the Arch 
bishop of Florence has not yet taken possession of 
his See. Cosmo regrets this deeply ; he tells me 
that Florence has not had a resident prelate for 
forty years, her religious requirements are great, 
the people are in a state of deplorable ignorance. 
A complete spiritual reformation is necessary, 

St. Charles Borromeo 

and the Duke implores your Holiness to send 
him an Archbishop. No matter who he is, so 
long as he comes at once, he will be heartily 

Charles next stopped at Bologna, where he was 
consoled and rejoiced to find religion in a flourish 
ing condition, the citizens leading good and holy 
lives, and they and the clergy alike eager to 
submit in all things to the decrees of the Council 
of Trent. Finally Charles entered Milan. He 
was greeted with enthusiasm ; all the city was 
en f&e ; rich draperies covered the walls of the 
houses, triumphal arches spanned the streets. 
Not even in the olden days, when splendour- 
loving Visconti and Sforza led their brides 
through gorgeously decorated streets in the midst 
of a loyal and enthusiastic people, were the 
pageants more splendid, the warm welcome more 
sincere. Seldom, if ever, had the rich City of the 
Plains given a more heartfelt and magnificent 
reception to even the most distinguished of her 
sons than to the Cardinal- Archbishop, riding 
slowly in on a white horse, attired in the robes 
of a Prince of the Church, and wearing the 
mitre and cope. 

He lost no time in convoking the Provincial 
Council. On the seventh day after his arrival 
the Bishops walked in procession to the Duomo ; 
an immense crowd filled its vast aisles ; the 
Cardinal opened the proceedings by singing the 
High Mass and preaching. 


The City of the Plains 

The text he selected was : " With desire have I 
desired to eat this Pasch with you." 

Charles had quite overcome the impediment 
that had prevented his speaking fluently and 
distinctly. He now spoke, not only with burn 
ing fervour, but with eloquence and grace. 
His hearers listened entranced, as his glowing 
words waked them from the spiritual lethargy 
into which they had fallen ; for he called on them 
in ringing tones to lead good and holy lives, to 
give up sin, and perform penance for their past 
faults. He implored the clergy to devote them 
selves heart and soul to the duties of their 
sacred calling, and to unite their prayers with 
his for the salvation of souls. 

This first Council was a model for all the 
succeeding ones ; it lasted through many sessions. 
It drew up minute regulations for the Bishops and 
clergy, and did much to aid towards the carrying 
out of the decrees of Trent. Charles sent an 
accurate account of its doings to the Sovereign 
Pontiff, who cordially approved of and confirmed 
its regulations. 

Charles, as Papal Legate, had to go to Trent 
to meet the Archduchesses of Austria, the sisters 
of the Emperor Maximilian, and to escort to 
Florence the Princess who was about to wed 
the Duke of Tuscany. 

This duty he found decidedly irksome, but he 
was engaged in performing it, with his usual 
thoroughness, and had just reached Firenzuola 


St. Charles Borromeo 

when the news reached him of the serious illness 
of his uncle, Pius IV. 

At first he was undecided whether he should 
hasten at once to Rome, or wait to finish his 
mission. However, he heard such bad accounts 
of the Pope s health, and of the small chance 
there was of his recovery, that he asked per 
mission of the Duke of Tuscany to leave. 

This request the Prince at once granted, and 
Charles immediately set out for Rome. 




Pius IV. lay on his deathbed. Beside him knelt 
his nephew, Charles Borromeo, Cardinal- Arch 
bishop of Milan, his friend Father Philip Neri, 
founder of the Oratory, and the two holy Cardinals 
Sirletto and Paleotto. 

These four devoted friends remained with the 
dying man until he breathed his last, praying and 
tending him. Charles broke the news to him that 
his hours were numbered, saying earnestly : 

" I implore your Holiness to think no more of 
the affairs of this world, nor even be any longer 
solicitous about the welfare of the Church ; give 
your whole heart and soul to preparing for 
eternity. I ask you to add this favour to the 
many you have already conferred upon me." 

When he heard the dear voice, speaking to him 
in accents of sincere affection, the venerable 
Pontiff roused himself from the lethargy into 
which he was falling. Charles held a crucifix to 
his lips ; he devoutly kissed it ; then, with a sweet 
smile, he thanked his nephew and again kissed 
the image of our Redeemer. Charles administered 


St. Charles Borromeo 

to him Extreme Unction and the Holy Viaticum, 
and continued in prayer by his bedside, never 
leaving him even for a moment. The Pope 
retained consciousness to the end, and passed 
quietly away, pronouncing in a clear voice holy 
Simeon s words : " Nunc dimittis servum tuum, 
Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace." 

He expired on December 10, 1565, in the sixty- 
sixth year of his age and the seventh of his 
pontificate. He was one of the most distinguished 
of the successors of St. Peter, for it was he who 
brought to a successful termination the greatest 
of the Councils. He did much to heal dissension 
among Christian Kings and Princes, and cause 
peace and concord to reign, not only in the Church, 
but in the world. He ably and generously helped 
with men and money the Knights of Jerusalem in 
their struggle against the Turks, and he induced 
the King of Spain also to send to their assistance 
troops and money. What he did for the Eternal 
City is graphically and concisely expressed in the 
following epigram : 

" Marmoream me fecit, eram cum terrea, Caesar, 
Aurea sub quarto sum modo facta Pio." 

It is much the same in the case of Popes as of 
Kings : " Le Roi est mort ! Vive le Roi !" Only 
a longer time has necessarily to elapse between 
the burial of the dead potentate and the election 
of his successor. 

The Cardinals must meet in conclave ; they 

A Nest of Saints 

must by fervent prayer, long watching, and 
rigorous fasting, implore the guidance of the 
Holy Ghost. 

On January 7, 1566, Cardinal Alessandrino was 
unanimously elected. He had been the devoted 
friend and disciple of Paul IV., but, although he 
resembled that austere and stern Pontiff in many 
ways, he was of a kindlier and more sympathetic 
nature. He had all the good qualities, and none of 
the faults, of his severe predecessor. He was, like 
Paul, strictly just, unbending, austere, humble, 
but he was also affable, kind-hearted, courteous, 
and easy of access. He lived with the utmost 
frugality and simplicity amidst the splendours of 
the Vatican ; he was at everyone s beck and call ; 
particularly was he accessible to the poor and 
needy he never refused to see them ; indeed, he 
welcomed them with warm geniality, and always 
did his utmost to lighten their heavy burdens. 
His heart and his purse were both at the disposal 
of the dirtiest and most ragged beggars in his 

This was an added bond between him, Charles, 
and Philip. All three loved the poor with 
passionate fervour, and though they differed in 
other traits, in this they were as one. Their 
friendship deepened daily. The Sovereign Pontiff 
implored Charles to remain in Rome and help 
him in his onerous duties, but the Archbishop 
could not forget his See, could not forget those 
wandering shepherds and sheep of his that were so 


St. Charles Borromeo 

sorely in need of a head. Too long the pastors 
and people of Milan had been without a master ; 
they had been led astray by strange doctrines, 
they had followed wandering lights, but they had 
not lost the Faith. They were still loyal children 
of Peter, but if left longer to their own devices 
they might, like their Swiss neighbours at the 
other side of the Alps, fall into heresy and unbelief. 
Charles realized this; he felt convinced that a 
strong hand and a steady head were necessary to 
bring order into this chaos, and he knew that 
it was God s will that his should be the hand, 
his the head, to accomplish this glorious work. 
Finally he prevailed on Pius V. to allow him to 
set out. 

Cardinal Alessandrino had taken the name of 
Pius, and he is venerated in the Church as St. 
Pius V. Before starting, Charles endeavoured to 
persuade St. Philip Neri to give him, if not his 
two most distinguished and most loved sons, 
Tarugi and Cesare Baronio, at least two or three 
of the less well-known ones, in order to found a 
congregation of secular priests in Milan, such as 
Philip had already started in Rome, and which in 
1575 was canonically erected into the Congregation 
of the Oratory. 

Father Philip listened, and promised later on, if 
possible, to send a couple of the Fathers, but he 
did not seem very confident of being able to do so. 
He, however, smiled kindly on the Archbishop, 
remarking playfully : " You are an unconscionable 

A Nest of Saints 

robber, and always want to carry off the best men 
with you." 

This was true. Charles, with his wonderful gift 
of discerning the capacity of men, was generally 
successful in bringing to Milan holy and virtuous 
priests as well as men of learning and piety. This 
refusal to grant at once the Cardinal s request did 
not, however, cause any break in the friendship 
between the two saints. During the three months 
spent in Rome the intimacy between him and 
Father Philip deepened, and their affection for 
each other grew warmer day by day. Indeed, the 
Archbishop held the humble priest in such venera 
tion that he frequently knelt before him and kissed 
his hand, begging him to bless him and to pray for 

With the Jesuits the Archbishop was more 
successful, for he succeeded in obtaining some 
subjects from St. Francis Borgia, who had been 
elected General of the Order on the death of 
Lainez a short time previously. Charles and the 
former Duke of Gandia became good friends, the 
Archbishop in later years proving the value and 
sincerity of his affection in a very munificent 
manner, giving at the request of St. Francis 
Borgia a large sum of money towards the erection 
of the present Church of the Gesu. Probably, in 
spite of his ardent longing to commence his task 
of reforming the Diocese of Milan, Charles felt a 
pang of poignant regret on wishing farewell to 
that bevy of saints, the holy and austere Pontiff, 

49 E 

St. Charles Borromeo 

St. Pius V. ; the genial, devoted priest, St. Philip 
Neri ; and the ascetical, noble-minded General of 
the Jesuits, St. Francis Borgia. Then, there were 
other very dear and saintly friends of his, though 
they have not yet been canonized. There was 
Cesare Baronio, erudite yet simple, Philip s 
favourite son, who afterwards became a Cardinal 
and a famous writer. There was generous, 
enthusiastic Francesco Maria Tarugi, who in his 
day was Papal Legate in Spain, France, and 
Portugal ; Archbishop of Avignon, then of Sienna ; 
founder of the Oratory at Naples, and a Cardinal 
of the Church, but finally resigned all his dignities 
and died a humble Filippino at the Vallicella. 

Then there was his director, the wise and 
prudent Jesuit, Father Ribera ; and there was that 
other charming, high-spirited, warm-hearted son 
of St. Ignatius, Pedro Ribadaneira, he who had 
been II Santo s special pet the wild boy who had 
by turns tormented and delighted the staid com 
munity whom Ignatius had always defended, 
telling the chiding Fathers that the lad would one 
day be a holy man doing great things for God 
and His Church. The prophecy was verified, for 
Pedro Ribadaneira, who up to this had done much, 
was to do more for the salvation of souls, and, 
among his many and great deeds, the writing of 
the life of his loved and venerated Father is surely, 
if not one of the greatest, one which has earned for 
him the undying gratitude of posterity. 

At this period Ribadaneira was Rector of the 

A Nest of Saints 

Roman College, filling that important position 
with energy and tact. 

To all these great and good men Charles said 
farewell, leaving Rome late in March, and travel 
ling quickly to Milan. En route he spent a short 
time at Loreto to visit the Holy House. "An 
overwhelming devotion compels me to go there," 
he wrote to his sister, Anna Colonna. That 
sentiment often brought him there again, but this 
time he could not tarry long, so he hastened 
northwards, arriving in Milan on Friday, April 5. 

" I purposely arrived unexpectedly on Friday," 
he wrote to Anna Colonna, "for I was determined 
to avoid a triumphal entry, and to prevent crowds 
of zealous people from coming to meet and pay 
their respects to me." 


NEVER, perhaps, in the history of the Church 
were priests and people alike fallen into such 
a deplorable state of lassitude and decadence 
as during the sixteenth century. Heresy, abuses, 
laxity, all tended to separate her children from 
Holy Church. Luther had already alienated 
many nations, his adherents and followers in 
creased daily ; it seemed as though all the powers 
of hell were let loose to devastate Europe, and 
that the triumph of error and of evil was at hand. 

Desperate as was the condition of Christendom, 
it was not past cure; there was one efficacious 
remedy a true and orthodox Reformation. At 
the Council of Trent, the means necessary to 
employ for the achievement of this colossal work 
had been decreed, but the carrying out the decrees 
required an indefatigable, enlightened, zealous 
Apostle, one who would dare all, endure all, to 
attain the desired result. 

In Rome, as we have seen, there were great 
and holy saints, and foremost amongst them, 
dominating them by his courage, his zeal, and his 


The Mission of Charles Borromeo 

genius, was Charles Borromeo. He was the 
chosen Apostle of the Sacred Council ; conse 
quently he devoted to the reform of all the 
members of the Church namely, the Cardinals, 
Bishops, Religious Orders, priests, and people 
the ardour of his soul, the strength of his will, the 
power of his intellect. 

The word " Reform," which is in all his letters, 
was in all his words, must have been deeply graven 
on his heart. 

Reformation that was the life - mission of 
Charles Borromeo ; he was the living, ardent 
soul of the last and greatest of the (Ecumenical 

In the processes of his canonization it is stated 
that, " imitating St. Thomas of Canterbury and 
St. Ambrose, he unceasingly endeavoured to re 
form, and to defend with all his strength, eccle 
siastical liberty and Christian discipline, both of 
which were in a deplorable state." 

On his return to Milan he immediately took in 
hand this glorious task, working at it with inde 
fatigable energy and tireless perseverance, yet 
skilfully avoiding over-eagerness, never going to 

Everything and almost everyone in his immense 
diocese had to be altered and corrected. When 
we consider that it was one of the largest in Italy, 
covering an area of more than a hundred miles, 
including parts of Switzerland, and extending from 
the shores of the Mediterranean to the Adriatic, 


St. Charles Borromeo 

containing two thousand churches, one hundred 
communities of men, seventy of women, and over 
three thousand priests, we are lost in wonder 
and admiration of the dauntless heroism that 
could serenely undertake such a herculean labour. 
Charles commenced with the clergy, but we will 
write but little on so painful a subject. We all 
know that the higher the position, the more sacred 
the office, the greater the fall ; therefore we will 
give the fewest possible words to so melancholy a 
theme. It is enough for us to know that the re 
forming Archbishop changed all that was lax and 
evil in the lives of his clergy ; order was restored, 
the wandering shepherds returned to their duties, 
generously responding to the stimulus of the 
overwhelming zeal of their Archbishop, and soon 
united with him in the fervour of reform. He 
established a congregation of discipline, and at it 
holy and learned priests met every week in the 
palace to discuss all matters concerning reforma 
tion, and the special requirements of each district 
and parish. 

Charles gave a sublime example of disinterested 
ness and generosity by resigning all his benefices 
except the See of Milan. He also denuded himself 
of the marquisate of Romagna, the principality of 
Oria, and three armed galleys that he had inherited 
from his brother, Count Frederick. He bestowed 
upon his uncles all the lands of Arona, Angera, 
and the rest of the family estate on Lago Maggiore. 
He sold the splendid furniture, the art treasures, 


The Mission of Charles Borromeo 

the jewels and silver, of his and of his brother s 
Roman palaces, giving the price to supply poor 
girls with fortunes. It is said that one day, having 
celebrated Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore, he 
dowered a hundred maidens who had come to 
him to ask him to help them to marry. He had 
had an income of 80,000 crowns, but when he 
had despoiled himself of his vast possessions only 
20,000 remained to him. This he would willingly 
have given away, so devotedly did he love poverty ; 
but it was necessary that he should have sufficient 
to pay his staff, maintain his household, exercise 
hospitality, and have ready money to give to those 
in pressing need of pecuniary assistance. He 
wished to renounce his offices of Grand Peniten 
tiary and Archpriest of Santa Maria Maggiore. 
St. Pius V. absolutely refused to accept his 
resignation ; Charles in vain pleaded that, as he 
resided at Milan, he could not possibly attend to 
the duties of these offices in Rome. The Pope 
was inflexible, remarking with finality : " No one 
can more worthily fill these positions than Charles, 
even though he is absent. As for the rest, if by 
chance there should be faults and mistakes in 
their administration, I will myself be answerable 
to God, who is the Sovereign Judge." 

Charles worked so incessantly, never sparing 
himself, taking no rest, that his friends feared 
his health would give way. He made a point 
of visiting every corner of his vast diocese twice 
a year, and he frequently did the rounds of all 


St. Charles Borromeo 

the numerous churches in Milan in a day. To 
kindle in the faithful the fervour and faith of 
the first ages of Christianity was his aim, and to 
succeed in it he was ready to brave the most 
menacing dangers and to labour with all his 
strength day and night. He allowed himself 
scarcely any sleep, for he generally rose at two in 
the morning to recite the Divine Office, and often 
started at four on long and wearisome journeys. 

His friend Cardinal de Como wrote to him : 
"You will kill yourself with hard work; these 
unending labours will ruin your health. You 
will, I know, reply that I am always ringing the 
changes on the same song. It is true. Yes, I 
repeat it again and again, for it is the truth. 
For God s sake modify your zeal and do not 
overexert yourself so terribly, if you wish your 
labours to continue for any length of time." 

Charles only smiled when he read this im 
passioned appeal, saying to Ferrerio : " If it is 
God s will that I should consume myself in His 
service, He will give to His Church a worthier 
pastor than Borromeo." 



" No man lighteth a candle, and putteth it in a 
hidden place, nor under a bushel : but upon a 
candlestick, that they that come in may see the 

" The light of thy body is thy eye. 

" If thy eye be single, thy whole body will be 
lightsome ; but if it be evil, thy body also will 
be darksome." 

Charles Borromeo was the eye, the light, of his 
whole diocese nay, one may venture to say it, 
of all Italy ; consequently he was in an especial 
manner the light and the eye of his own household. 

" Take heed, therefore, that the light which is 
in thee be not darkness. If, then, thy whole body 
be lightsome, having no part of darkness, the 
whole shall be lightsome, and as a bright lamp 
shall enlighten thee." 

The ascetic Archbishop did not hide his light ; 
it shone with a steady radiance, illuminating the 
darkness that surrounded him, and from its 
rays the ecclesiastics who formed his immediate 
entourage gained warmth and strength, enabling 
them to go forth courageously to reform the 


St. Charles Borromeo 

world, and to bring the knowledge and love of 
Jesus Christ to those that sat in the outer dark 
ness of unbelief and the inner gloom of decadence. 

There were many celebrated and saintly men 
trained by the Cardinal in what to the superficial 
observer was only the commonplace household of 
an ordinary Archbishop, but was really a school 
of perfection directed by an heroic saint. 

Among the foremost of these friends and disciples 
of Charles were Nicholas Ormanetto, afterwards 
Bishop of Padua and Legate to the Court of 
Madrid during the Pontificate of Gregory XIII. ; 
John Baptist Castelle, Bishop of Rimini and 
Legate to the Court of France; John Francis 
Bonomi, who was several times Legate in Belgium, 
Germany, and Switzerland, and was Bishop of 
Vercelli ; Jerome Frederick Triulzio, Bishop of 
Lodi, Envoy to the Duke of Savoy, and Governor 
of Rome ; and, greatest and most famous of all, 
Cesare Speciano. He was, perhaps, the nearest 
and dearest to the heart of Charles ; that is, if 
the austere Cardinal allowed himself a prefer 
ence, Cesare was the favourite. He was also a 
favourite of the Popes, for both St. Pius V. and 
Gregory XIII. gave him important missions, 
sending him to the King of Spain and the 
Emperor Rodolphe to arrange delicate affairs 
that required diplomatic and judicious manage 
ment. He was consecrated Bishop of Cremona, 
and died in the odour of sanctity. 

There were many others in this school of saints 


A School for Saints 

who afterwards held the highest positions in the 
Church men who by their talents, virtues, and 
wise administration of their dioceses, were living 
witnesses of the sanctity of the holy Cardinal 
whose disciples they had been in the days of 
their youth. 

We will now give a very short account of the 
rules and regulations of the household that was, 
as it were, a forcing-bed for saints. It was 
composed principally of ecclesiastics, and was 
monastic and austere in character. All the 
members rose early, assembled in the chapel for 
Matins, meditation, and the Office of the Blessed 
Virgin ; then those who were ordained priests 
celebrated Holy Mass. They took their meals 
together in silence ; either a pious book was read 
aloud, or an improving homily was delivered by 
each in turn. During several years the Cardinal 
dined with them ; he rarely ate meat, and never 
drank wine, but he was always most particular 
that the wines and viands partaken of by the 
community should be of the best quality. 

Wednesdays, Fridays and the eves of many 
feasts of devotion, were kept as fast-days. Lent 
commenced on Quinquagesima Sunday, and, fol 
lowing the Ambrosian rule, Advent began from 
the first Sunday after the feast of St. Martin. 

During these seasons they refrained from meat 
and milk. They frequently assembled together to 
take the discipline ; they spent their hours of 
recreation in chats on spiritual subjects ; and they 


St. Charles Borromeo 

finished the day by an examination of conscience. 
Often Charles himself read aloud during meals ; 
he was truly the servant of all. " But whosoever 
will be the greatest amongst you, let him be your 
minister. And he that will be first among you 
shall be your servant." 

He did little kindnesses for them, lighting their 
lamps, seeing that they were warmly clad, examin 
ing carefully the sleeping apartments of the lowest 
domestics, even of the scullions and stable-boys, to 
see that they were comfortably housed and that 
they wanted for nothing. When any of his staff 
were ill, or even slightly indisposed, his attentions 
redoubled ; he would personally supervise their 
meals, and often told the procurator to spare no 
expense to get them anything they fancied. 

" If an egg or an orange costs a ducat 1 apiece, 
get them as many as they like," he ordered. 

He was so considerate that, when he had to pass 
from one room to another at night, he invariably 
took off his shoes, lest he might wake the sleepers. 

He spent 18,000 scudi in the restoration of 
the episcopal palace, but in this magnificent 
dwelling-house he occupied a tiny garret under 
the roof. It was the poorest and most miserable 
cell, exposed to the summer s heat and the winter s 
cold. In it he slept in a chair or on a wooden table. 

When one visits this wretched room, one 

realizes something of the austerity and frugality 

of the great Cardinal, who in his early youth 

1 A ducat was worth fifteen shillings of our money. 


A School for Saints 

loved splendour and delighted in artistic sur 
roundings, but who in his young manhood em 
braced with whole-hearted generosity the poverty 
and mortification that have always been so dear 
to the saints. 

We cannot, however, better describe Charles 
Borromeo than by quoting Manzoni s description 
of Cardinal Frederick Borromeo, the cousin and 
successor of our saint in the See of Milan, for 
it gives us a true and accurate portrait of the 
character and virtues of the reforming Archbishop. 

In the " Promessi Sposi," that masterpiece of 
Italian literature, the celebrated Italian author 
writes thus : 

" He was one of those men, rare in every genera 
tion, who have with undiverted tenacity of purpose 
employed remarkable talents, the resources of 
great wealth, the advantages of high rank, and an 
unwearying diligence, in the search and exercise of 
the noblest aims and principles. His life resembles 
a rivulet which, issuing limpid from the rock, 
flows in a ceaseless and unruffled, though length 
ened course through various lands, and, clear and 
limpid still, falls at last into the ocean. Amidst 
comforts and luxuries he attended, even from 
childhood, to those lessons of self-denial and 
humility, and those maxims on the vanity of 
worldly pleasure and the sinfulness of pride, on 
true dignity and true riches, which, whether 
acknowledged or not in the heart, have been trans 
mitted from generation to generation in the most 


Saint Charles Borromeo 

elementary instruction in religion. His life was 
one continual overflowing charity. This in 
exhaustible charity appeared not only in his 
almsgiving, but in his whole behaviour. Easy of 
access to all, he considered a cheerful countenance 
and an affectionate courtesy particularly due to 
those in the lower ranks of life. Very seldom did 
he exhibit anger, being admired for his mild and 
imperturbable gentleness. When he showed 
seventy, it was to those in authority whom he 
found guilty of avarice or negligence or any other 
conduct opposed to the spirit of their high voca 
tion. Upon what affected his own interest or 
glory he never showed either joy, regret, anxiety, 
or eagerness. Careful and indefatigable in order 
ing and governing everything, where he considered 
it his duty to do so, he shrank from intruding into 
the affairs of others, and even when solicited 
generally refused." 

Can we wonder that the men who lived for 
many years in closest intimacy with one so saintly 
and perfect should in their turn have gone forth to 
bear testimony, by the holiness and purity of their 
lives, to the wisdom and sanctity of their beloved 

Trained by a saint, they lived noble and virtuous 
lives, and their learning and piety helped to re 
kindle in the hearts of their flocks the ardent faith 
and consuming love of God, and of charity towards 
each other, which they themselves practised with 
such sublime heroism. 




THE glorious colossal Cathedral of Milan, rightly 
called the " eighth wonder of the world," for it is 
ethereal yet gigantic, cloud-like and graceful and 
yet majestic, is fittingly dedicated to " Marise 
Nascenti." The inscription on the fa9ade tells us 
this, so does the delicate fairy gold statue, poised 
as though on the point of flying heavenward, on 
the summit of the tower over the dome. It is 
beautiful both within and without, this magnifi 
cent temple that is dedicated to the birth of the 
Mother of God. It is a dream of white splendour, 
this basilica built of purest marble, glimmering 
sometimes rose red with an unearthly radiance, 
when the setting sun touches with fairy light its 
airy pinnacles, or shining silver white at noonday, 
when caressed and warmed by the full splendour 
of the brilliant Italian sunshine. We gaze spell 
bound, awestruck by its surpassing loveliness; 
words fail us, and we can only feel that it is a 
mute witness of the eternal heavenward flight of the 
souls of men, their unquenchable longing through 


St. Charles Borromeo 

all time for beauty and grace of form, and their 
increasing thirst for perfection of stature and 
outline. Far be it from me to attempt to describe 
this superb, colossal white marble Duomo, this 
embodied exhalation of purity and faith. It is the 
pride and joy of the Milanese of to-day, in their 
tram-ridden, noisy, commercial, twentieth-century 
city, as it was their glory and delight in the 
sixteenth century, the days when Cardinal-Arch 
bishop Charles Borromeo, having succeeded in 
reforming the secular clergy, turned his attention 
to the reformation of the Cathedral and its 

To us it is almost divine ; it is a dream too 
sublime, too heavenly, for criticism or analysis. 
Charles, however, knew it was his duty, not only 
to criticize, but to reform, and he set to work with 
his usual sound common-sense to perfect the 
dream, to bring order into the house of God, into 
the dwelling-place that should have been devoted 
to silent prayer or to the singing of canticles in 
praise of the Most High, but into which, as into 
most of the churches in Italy of that period, 
laxity and corruption had gradually crept, pre 
venting prayer, making a mock of reverence. 

Canons and functions alike had to be purified. 
The reforming Cardinal began by somewhat 
despotically turning out the dead and gone lords 
of Milan, the Visconti and Sforza, and all that to 
them pertained ; he swept ruthlessly away their 
tombs, their escutcheons, banners, standards ; 

The Stone of the Founder 

even the paintings representing their heroic deeds, 
and their armorial bearings, were all cast out ; they 
and their works were anathema in death as in life 
to the high-souled, stern ascetic. We know that 
he was but carrying out the decrees of the Council 
of Trent, that he acted in unflinching obedience 
to those decrees, for they strictly prohibited the 
burial of bodies in monuments in churches ; yet 
we cannot help regretting that he was so very 
zealous and inflexible, for he effectually and un 
compromisingly destroyed all the picturesque, 
priceless historic associations with a ruthless and 
unsparing hand ; he swept away all the relics of 
the thrilling romantic past, destroying alike the 
emblems of its beauty, its truth, and its superb 

Men say that the interior of the Cathedral of 
Milan is the grandest in the world. It is un 
doubtedly true, and if Charles Borromeo had not 
been consumed with such burning zeal, had not 
been so inflexibly determined to carry out in the 
letter as well as the spirit the decrees of the Sacred 
Council, it would be, not only the grandest, but 
the most romantically historical, and would be im 
pregnated with the most fascinating medievalism. 

" The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up." 
It had indeed devoured the ascetic Archbishop, 
and though it was right and fitting that he should 
prevent the living from trafficking in the Duomo, 
from chatting, gossiping, and taking short-cuts 
through its shadowy aisles, though it was expe- 

65 F 

St. Charles Borromeo 

dient that he should say to them in the words of 
the Gospel, " Take these things hence, and make 
not the house of My Father a house of traffic," 
yet we wish that he had allowed the dead to rest 
in peace. 

Charles, however, while destroying with one 
hand, gave new beauty and grace with the other ; 
he did much to embellish the interior, though 
many think that he and his successor, Cardinal 
Frederick Borromeo, or the architects employed 
by them, succeeded to a certain extent in spoiling 
the exterior, changing the pure Gothic of the 
original design ; and what they left undone in the 
way of marring the harmonious original design, 
Napoleon I. consummated. In the interior 
Charles restored and embellished the choir, 
raising the high-altar, so that it could be visible 
to all the congregation. The beautiful and richly 
ornamented tabernacle was the gift of our saint s 
uncle, Pius IV. Over it is an exquisite bronze 
ciborium, a fine piece of sixteenth-century work 

The handsomely carved gilt pulpits were also 
given and designed by Charles, though they were 
not finished during his lifetime, but in that of his 
cousin, Cardinal Frederick Borromeo. The Arch 
bishop found it absolutely necessary to close two 
of the principal doors, for the citizens used them 
to facilitate their progress from one part of the 
town to another, dashing through the house of 
God as though it were a convenient short-cut, 


The Stone of the Founder 

never pausing even to genuflect before the Blessed 
Sacrament, but either rushing through at headlong 
speed, or slowly sauntering along with their com 
panions, laughing, jesting, singing profane songs. 
Charles soon stopped this scandal, and when the 
doors were walled up he erected beautiful and 
devotional altars in front of them. He also 
abolished the plays and mummeries that for 
centuries at certain periods had taken place in 
the Duomo. These frolics had given rise to 
much evil, and had been productive of but little 
good. Originally instituted by Gian Galeazzo 
Visconti as a means of procuring money towards 
the building of the cathedral, they had degene 
rated into mad pranks and licentious farces. 
The reforming Cardinal would have infinitely 
preferred never to receive a penny for the church 
than to have got millions by such exhibitions of 
sinful frivolity and vice. However, in the long- 
run he gained instead of losing, for the people 
generously gave such large donations and munifi 
cent gifts that the money that would have been 
made by the mummeries was amply compensated 
for. The Cardinal wished his cathedral to be a 
model to the rest of his diocese; he therefore 
devoted his time and attention to the regulation 
of its Chapter. The Canons had each and all such 
a number of benefices that they were absolutely 
unable to attend to the services of the cathedral, 
and often neglected the daily recital of the Divine 


St. Charles Borromeo 

Charles had given an heroic example of dis 
interestedness : he had resigned all his benefices 
except the See of Milan. When he asked the 
Canons of the cathedral and the priests of the 
diocese to do likewise, they could not refuse to 
imitate him; one man, one benefice, was henceforth 
the rule, and in ordaining this Charles was again 
acting in obedience to the decrees of the Council 
of Trent. 

Many of the Canons were badly off, and, indeed, 
their poverty had in several cases been their reason 
for accepting a multiplicity of benefices. Charles 
came to their assistance, suppressed a few useless 
canonries, and divided their incomes among the 
Canons in residence. They were now able to 
devote themselves unreservedly to their duties in 
the cathedral, preaching, hearing confessions, 
instructing the faithful, and performing their 
sacred functions with dignity and reverence. 
Charles decreed that the Canons of the cathedral 
should, when in choir, wear during the greater 
part of the year the red robes of a Cardinal, and 
that during Lent and Advent they should still 
follow the example of the Princes of the Church, 
changing the red robe for violet. Consequently 
they were generally called by the people I signori 
cardinali del duomo. 

Charles, we know, was passionately fond ot 
music, and he proceeded to reform the choir, the 
music of which, as in Rome and throughout Italy, 
had become degenerate and worldly in character. 


The Stone of the Founder 

The singers were divided into different choirs, and 
they were only allowed to use the organ ; all other 
instruments were strictly prohibited. It is a 
curious fact that in Milan the liturgy is in some 
ways different from that used over the rest of the 
world. In the ritual of the Mass there are im 
portant divergencies, for in all the churches there 
they adhere to the old Ambrosian rite. It is 
simpler and sterner than ours, and the Milanese 
have been allowed for centuries by the Sovereign 
Pontiff to use it, because they are warmly attached 
to it, looking upon it as a traditional liturgy, and 
as an heirloom from ancient times. 

Of course, in matters of dogma and doctrine 
the Milanese believe just what all Catholics 
believe ; in no way does their faith differ from 
ours ; it is only in their ritual that there are 
divergencies. The Ambrosian Liturgy is said to 
have been compiled by St. Barnabas. It has 
certainly several Eastern attributes, and evidently 
belongs to the liturgical school of Ephesus. Its 
chief characteristic is an extra reading of Scripture 
in addition to the Epistle and Gospel. This is 
called the Prophetia, and is taken from the Old 
Testament. Then, also, the deacon makes a 
curious proclamation of silence before the Epistle. 
There are a lay offering of the oblations, some 
unusual litanies, an addition to the prayer for 
consecration, closely resembling the one used in 
the Greek rite, and on Palm Sunday and at Easter 
there are many ceremonies similar to those used 

St. Charles Borromeo 

in the Greek Liturgy. Another rather puzzling 
difference is the change in the calendar, the 
numbering of the Sundays after Pentecost. There 
are also slight differences in the shape and use of 
the censers, the incensing of the altar and clergy, 
and the holding of the Book of the Gospel. 

The music is infinitely grander and more im 
pressive, and, as the organ is the only instrument 
used, naturally Charles, who wished to preserve 
in every detail the traditional liturgy, sternly 
insisted on the abolition of all others. 

It is a strange and ever-to-be-remembered ex 
perience to assist at Holy Mass in the dream 
like, shadowy cathedral, the dim religious light 
just sufficient to cast a mystic glory over the 
lofty and spacious aisles, the beautiful mouldings, 
and the light, graceful arches, to fall with soft 
radiance on the magnificent high-altar with its 
rich canopy, to light up the golden pulpits and 
the pure white marble screen round the sanctuary, 
and to turn to a deeper crimson the red robes 
of / signori cardinal* del duomo. 

Then the glorious music ! the solemn, majestic 
chant, that seems not of earth, but of heaven ! 

It is a holy arid restful experience in the midst of 
the hurry and bustle of our vie de colis; it stands 
out clear and distinct, and the memory of its 
beauty and peace is an enduring pleasure. 

I cherish another nay, two other reminiscences 
of that fair white Duomo. The two things that 
most strongly appealed to me in that colossal 


The Stone of the Founder 

wilderness of stately beauty, that garden of 
exotic loveliness, were the Stone of the Founder 
the Crucifix of the Saint. Entering the porch 
from the sunlit, noisy, tram-ridden piazza, one 
sees on the right hand, embedded in the wall, 
the stone recording the event that in 1386 Gian 
Galeazzo Maria Visconti, first Duke of Milan, 
laid the foundation of this colossal pile of white 
marble, the Duomo of Milan, and that it was a 
votive offering from him to Heaven for a son to 
inherit his great possessions. Thus it was dedi 
cated, not to the Birth of Christ, but to the Birth 
of the Mother of Christ Maries Nascenti. 1 

On the third altar in the nave, on the left-hand 
side, is the plain wooden crucifix that Charles 
Borromeo, the Reformer and Apostle of Milan, 
carried in procession through the streets of the 
city during the terrible plague of 1576. 

These two so different objects have a strange 
charm and fascination, representing as they do, 
one the height and summit of human grandeur 
and vaulting ambition, the other the sublime self- 
sacrifice, the superabundant, overflowing charity, 
of the follower of the Crucified. 

1 The following inscription is graven on the stone : " El 
Principio dil Duomo d 3 Milano F. V. Nell anno 1386." 


So far Charles had succeeded beyond his hopes 
in the reforms he had taken in hand. He had 
reason to congratulate himself, and he was un 
doubtedly pleased and deeply grateful to Almighty 
God, who had worked such rapid and salutary 
changes through his instrumentality. 

In 1569, however, clouds overcast the serene 
sky ; threatenings of the terrific storm that was 
soon to burst over his devoted head were distinctly 
audible. The struggle between the ecclesiastical 
and civil power commenced. It was to last during 
the lifetime of our saint, and he was to exhaust 
himself in the supreme efforts he made defending 
the rights, privileges, and even the authority, of 
the Church against the State. At this period 
Milan was under the dominion of Spain, and 
was governed for Philip II. by a grandee of that 
country, Gabriel della Gueva, Duke d Albuquerque. 
He was a just and worthy man ; indeed, Charles 
said of him : " I could not have believed it possible 
that the Governor was so good, religious, and so 
devoted to theservice of God." 


The Commencement of the Struggle 

But this good, religious man was weak and 
easily led. It was not from him that Charles 
encountered opposition ; but when the storm of 
persecution burst the Governor lacked, not perhaps 
the moral courage, but certainly the necessary tact 
and energy to stem it. 

It was the Senate of Milan who, jealous of the 
authority and popularity of the reforming Arch 
bishop, rinding that his decrees and those of 
the Provincial Council were likely to affect them 
in a disagreeable and undesired way, compelling 
them, whether they wished it or not, to purify 
their own lives and the lives of their fellow- 
citizens it was the Senate who endeavoured to 
throw off the yoke they found neither light nor 
pleasant, the burden that was too heavy for them. 

The supreme authority rested in their hands, 
yet they were resolved that the Governor should 
bear his share of the crusade against the holy and 
generous Archbishop. They started by accusing 
him of hiding deep and dangerous designs under 
a mask of humility and charity. They said that 
he was ambitious and avaricious, seeking only 
his own interests, endeavouring to secure to him 
self gold and lands, probably aiming at supreme 
power ; he was an intriguer, a dangerous person, 
and they endeavoured to persuade the Duke 
d Albuquerque that he was weakly allowing the 
royal authority to be usurped by wily ecclesiastics, 
headed by an adroit and clever schemer. 

They only awaited a favourable opportunity to 

St. Charles Borromeo 

attack the Archbishop. One soon came. In the 
city there were several laymen whose evil lives 
were a scandal. Charles frequently admonished 
them, but they turned a deaf ear to his admoni 
tions, and continued recklessly to give free vent to 
their wicked passions. 

" Woe to the world because of scandals ! For it 
must needs be that scandals come; but nevertheless, 
woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh." 
Vainly the saintly Archbishop tried to convince 
these stubborn and evil men of their wickedness, 
imploring them to change their lives, and no 
longer be a hindrance and a scandal to the other 
members of his flock. 

" And if thy hand or foot scandalize thee, cut it 
off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to 
go into life maimed or lame, than having two 
hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 
And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out, and 
cast it from thee. It is better for thee having one 
eye to enter into life than having two eyes to be 
cast into hell fire." 

Acting on the Gospel precepts, Charles cast 
from him the hand and the eye that were a source 
of scandal to the little ones ; in other words, he 
threw the obdurate offenders into prison. It was 
the signal for an outburst. The Senate shrieked 
angry denunciations, but dared not openly rebel ; 
for the Cardinal, according to the old custom, 
maintained a secular body of men, with an officer 
of justice at their head. This troop carried arms, 


The Commencement of the Struggle 

and had the right to imprison offenders against 
morals or religion. The Senate endeavoured to 
prevent these men from fulfilling their duties, 
threatening them with sundry and severe penalties 
if they obeyed their lawful chief. They even told 
these simple soldiers that they disobeyed the laws 
of the Governor by carrying arms. In the words 
of the Jews of old, they cried out : " You are not 
Caesar s friend if you persist in doing this thing, in 
obeying an arrogant Churchman instead of your 
lawful Sovereign." The Captain of the Guard and 
his men were loyal to their Cardinal-Archbishop, 
with the result that the Captain^was arrested by 
the Senate, cruelly ill-treated, and finally driven 
from the city, with the warning that if he ever 
returned he would be hung as high as Aman. 

We can fancy the grief that this outrageous 
conduct caused the tender heart of Charles. 
Weeping profusely, he threw himself on his knees 
before the tabernacle, begging our Lord to give 
him the necessary grace to pass through this 
stormy time, and imploring the Holy Ghost to 
guide his steps in the difficult and thorny path 
that lay before him. Invigorated by prayer and 
fasting for severe fasting was, as we shall see 
later on, his cure for most ailments, whether of 
soul or body he immediately took decided 
measures to defend the rights and liberties of Holy 
Church. He excommunicated the Chief of Police 
and all who were implicated in the arrest and 
banishment of his Captain ; they, the President of 


St. Charles Borromeo 

the Senate, and two senators, were summoned to 
appear in Rome without delay. 

There was a short interval, during which the 
opposing parties, each in their different ways, 
sought for fresh vigour and strength to carry on 
the struggle. 

The holy Archbishop had recourse to prayer, 
fasting, and almsgiving. His enemies took advan 
tage of the cessation of hostilities to influence the 
Governor. They succeeded at length in persuad 
ing him to give what they told him would be an 
undeniable proof of his loyalty to the King. 

He had been very displeased at the imprison 
ment and banishment of the Archbishop s Captain 
by the Senate, and had in his turn sent to gaol a 
few of their adherents who had torn down the 
sentence of excommunication from the doors of 
the archiepiscopal palace and of the churches ; but 
now, yielding to their representations, he decreed 
that all persons who in any way encroached on the 
royal jurisdiction were guilty of treason. The 
decree was couched in such vague terms that no 
one knew what it meant what was treason, 
and what was not. It caused endless confusion, 
everything was at sixes and at sevens; lawyers 
refused to plead before the ecclesiastical tribunals, 
fearing lest by doing so they might offend against 
the King s prerogative. 

While affairs were in this unsatisfactory con 
dition, the storm once more burst forth and with 
redoubled violence. The Chapter of the collegiate 

The Commencement of the Struggle 

church of Santa Maria della Scala was under the 
patronage of the King of Spain. This church had 
been founded by Regina della Scala, the wife of 
Bernabo Visconti, in 1381, and was dedicated to 
the Blessed Virgin. In order to distinguish it 
from the numerous churches in the city already 
dedicated to the Mother of God, it added the 
maiden name of its foundress, della Scala. She 
established a Chapter, and the members had 
always been appointed by the Duke of Milan. In 
1530, Francesco Sforza II., the last Duke, had 
applied to Clement VII. to allow the Canons to be 
exempted from the jurisdiction of the See of Milan. 
The Pope granted their request, but only on the 
understanding that the Archbishop should also 
give his consent. This consent had never been 
granted ; consequently the privilege did not hold 
good. The Chapter needed reform as much as, 
perhaps more than, any of the others, and, with the 
intention of judging for himself, Charles announced 
that he was about to visit it. The Canons 
refused to receive him, pleading exemption from his 
jurisdiction. The Archbishop, after consulting 
the Sovereign Pontiff, formally declared their 
claim was invalid, and on August 30, 1569, he 
signified his resolve to pay them a formal visit. 
No sooner did the Canons receive this message 
than they closed all the doors, and retired to the 
cemetery, but not before they had placed armed 
men in front of the building to prevent the entrance 
of the Archbishop. 


St. Charles Borromeo 

Charles left the Duomo clothed in his episcopal 
vestments ; two priests on horseback rode in front 
of him, carrying the episcopal cross and the 
Cardinal s insignia. He followed mounted on a 
mule. As he rode forth his friend, Count Caspar 
de Magno, implored him to turn back, saying : 
" Take care lest these disputes lose you the whole 

" In the defence of the honour of God and of 
His Church I will never lose this city," the 
Cardinal replied with quiet dignity. 

As soon as he arrived at Santa Maria della 
Scala, the soldiers employed by the Canons rushed 
towards him, and endeavoured to prevent his dis 
mounting, seizing the reins of his mule and of the 
horses of his companions. Notwithstanding their 
menaces and violence, the Cardinal quietly got off 
his mule, and, looking with undaunted courage at 
the fifty swords that were raised to bar his way, he 
passed slowly and majestically towards the door 
of the church, carrying the crucifix in his hands, 
his eyes fixed with loving confidence on the image 
of our crucified Saviour. 

Castello, the Vicar-General, succeeded in fasten 
ing to the door the censure the Canons incurred 
by their revolt, but it was immediately snatched 
down and torn into a thousand pieces. 

The Canons themselves now appeared upon the 
scene, and, standing in front of the entrance, 
declared they would never allow the Archbishop 
to go in. A scene of indescribable confusion 


The Commencement of the Struggle 

followed. Midst the ringing of bells, the clashing 
of arms, the yells of an infuriated mob, Charles 
stood calm and majestic, unmoved by the uproar 
around him. He held aloft the image of the 
Crucified, and spoke words of mingled reproach, 
entreaty and command to the angry Canons and 
the rough soldiers, but his voice was drowned 
by shouts of " Spain ! Spain !" mingled with oaths 
and coarse invective from these madmen, who not 
only banged the door in his face, but brutally 
attacked him and his followers. Blinded by rage, 
they actually fired upon, and struck in several 
places, the sacred Emblem of our Salvation. 
Charles pressed his lips with loving reverence 
to the mutilated crucifix, and then, raising his 
eyes to heaven, prayed silently. 

Then the insolent Pietro Barbesta, a priest of 
Pavia, who was acting the part of devil s advocate 
for the refractory Canons, rang a bell and pro 
claimed in stentorian tones that the Cardinal- 
Archbishop Charles Borromeo had incurred eccle 
siastical censure, and was suspended from his 
functions for having endeavoured to violate the 
privilege of the Church of Santa Maria della 
Scala. This absurd sentence he afterwards 
placarded in various parts of the city. 

Charles listened unmoved, and it was only when 
he thoroughly realized the absolute uselessness of 
both prayers and commands that he solemnly 
pronounced the words of excommunication and 
retired to the Duomo. 


St. Charles Borromeo 

There in humble prayer before the tabernacle 
he besought our Lord to pardon the misguided 
Canons and the rough soldiers, and implored 
the Holy Ghost to direct him how best to act 
for the honour and glory of God and of His 

Fortified and enlightened by the Divine grace 
in his visit to the Blessed Sacrament, he renewed 
the sentence of excommunication, placed the 
Church of Santa Maria della Scala under an 
interdict, and specified by name the Canon a 
native of Calabria who had headed the revolt. 

Pius V. was horrified when he heard of this 
dreadful riot. He wrote a most consoling and 
affectionate letter to his beloved son Charles, 
and he emphatically declared that all Barbesta 
had said and done was null and void, and ordered 
him and the Calabrian immediately to repair 
to Rome. 

The Calabrian never arrived there, for he met 
with a sudden and awful death, and the impious 
wretch who fired upon the cross also came to a 
terrible end two days after the appalling act he 
had so wantonly committed. Their tragic fate 
inspired the Canons with salutary fear of the 
judgment of God, and they lived in mortal dread 
lest a like doom should fall on them. To avert 
the evil fate, the Provost came to the Archbishop, 
and on his knees humbly begged forgiveness ; the 
others followed his example, and Charles, who 
though stern was magnanimous, generously par- 


The Commencement of the Struggle 

doned them, treating them with great kindness 
and charity. 

It was with difficulty that he persuaded St. 
Pius V. to allow him to deal with them himself, 
for the Sovereign Pontiff was justly incensed at 
the injury done to the rights of the Church, and 
at the insults offered to the Cardinal he so 
honoured and loved ; and he feared the saintly 
prelate would be too lenient with the offenders. 

At last, however, Charles prevailed ; he got 
permission from Rome to work his will upon 
the once refractory, but now penitent, Canons. 
He required them to make a public confession ; 
he then gave them absolution and accompanied 
them back to their cloister, where he formally 
reinstated them, after having offered up a prayer 
of thanksgiving. 



THE Canons of Santa Maria della Scala were not 
the only perverse and stubborn religious with 
whom Charles had to deal. A reformer must 
needs meet with opposition, for those who require 
to be reformed seldom relish the process, and often 
refuse to submit. Among the Religious Orders 
that at this period required a thorough and severe 
reformation, the principal one was the Umiliati 
or Humble Ones. This Order, that was now 
humble only in name, had been founded in the 
eleventh century by a few Milanese nobles. At 
its foundation it was something like the Third 
Order of St. Francis, consisting of men and 
women living in their own homes, but bound by 
solemn promises to lead lives of humility, industry, 
and comparative poverty. A century later they 
adopted in part the rule of St. Bernard, and very 
soon a second Order was formed, still composed 
both of men and women, and even of married 
couples, who lived in separate cloisters, and bound 
themselves to the strictest observance of religious 
duties and of moral virtues. Later on a third 


The Humble Ones 

Order arose ; this was composed of men only, and 
they took Holy Orders and were styled Canons. 
For some years they were very troublesome ; 
indeed, they were condemned by successive Popes 
for going about preaching strange doctrines, and 
declaring themselves practically independent of 
Rome, for their rule had never been confirmed by 
the Holy See. 

However, Innocent III., recognizing that, in 
spite of their seeming lax orthodoxy, they really 
were holy and zealous men and women, doing 
much good in their own way and having a powerful 
influence over the people, resolved to form them 
into a regular Order, to give them a fixed and 
binding rule, and compel them to live in monas 
teries and submit in all things to Rome. This he 
did; the Third Order, consisting of ordained 
priests, became, as is usual, the First and most 
important, and those who continued to reside in 
their own homes were then called the Third Order. 
Their original love of poverty and simplicity was 
unfortunately replaced by a desire for riches and 
power. They became enormously wealthy, owned 
vast possessions in the form of commendas, pre 
bends, etc., and had grown arrogant and un 
manageable; the members were very few, and 
were nearly all nobles who, under the cloak of 
religion, led evil and disorderly lives. 

It was with this degenerate Order that Charles 
had now to cope. He found them obstinate and 
stiff-necked, determined to hold on to their gold 


St. Charles Borromeo 

and lands. The Archbishop applied to Rome, 
and obtained two briefs, one of which empowered 
him to employ a part of the revenues of the 
Superiors of the monasteries to found a novitiate 
for their Order. 

The other gave him absolute authority to enforce 
the regulations he deemed necessary to effect a 
thorough reform. Under these circumstances the 
Frati Umiliati appeared to yield, but they only 
apparently submitted in order the better to carry 
out their treacherous designs. 

They considered that if this too ascetical and 
austere Archbishop were sent to Paradise their 
troubles would cease, and they could enjoy un 
disturbed the possessions of which, in his too 
great zeal for the purity and poverty to which 
they were vowed, he wished to deprive them. 
Charles safely sent to another and better world, 
they could return to their former easy-going, 
luxurious existence. They resolved to assassinate 
him, and for this purpose they bought over one of 
their own brethren, Geronimo Donato, who for 
the sum of forty crowns agreed to do the dastardly 
deed. On Wednesday, October 26, 1569, the 
Cardinal and his household assembled as usual 
in the chapel for Matins. It was about half-past 
one in the morning. They commenced the Office, 
the choir joining in a motet chanting the words 
of Scripture: "Tempus est ut revertar ad eum 
qui me misit " (It is time that I return to Him 
who sent me) ; and when they sang, " Non 


The Humble Ones 

turbetur cor vestrum, neque formidet " (Let 
not your heart be troubled, neither let it be 
afraid), a loud report rang through the chapel 
and a sudden flash blinded the spectators. Donate 
had fired an arquebuse at the kneeling Archbishop ; 
a ball struck his spine, a piece of lead shaped like 
a thimble pierced his soutane, but he was not 
wounded. He, however, having heard the report, 
seen the flash, and felt himself hit, thought he was 
seriously injured, though he felt no pain ; never 
theless he did not move, but, signing to the 
choristers to continue singing, he quietly waited 
until Matins were finished. 

When the devotions were over, they found a 
ball just behind him, and several pieces of lead 
embedded in the walls; there was a black mark 
where the ball had pierced his robe, and one of 
the pieces of lead had actually touched his body, 
darkening and bruising the skin. He bore the 
mark of the bruise until his dying day. The 
would-be murderer escaped in the darkness, and 
for a long time was undiscovered, but he and his 
accomplices were captured in 1570, and were 
condemned to death. 

On August ii of that year they were publicly 
executed. Donate, at the moment that he passed 
the Archbishop on his way to the scaffold, had 
the hand that fired the shot struck off by the 
executioner. He and his companions confessed, 
and expressed sincere sorrow and repentance, on 
the scaffold. 

St. Charles Borromeo 

Charles had vainly interceded for them, begging 
the Sovereign Pontiff to pardon them ; but he was 
inexorable, and, having first degraded, handed 
them over to the civil authorities. In answer to 
all the Cardinal s prayers and pleas, expressing 
with the greatest earnestness his confidence that 
they would mend their ways if their lives were 
spared, St. Pius V. only replied : " Si potest 
^Ethiops mutare pellem suam ?" (Can the 
Ethiopian change his skin ?) The attempted 
assassination of the reforming Cardinal in the 
end was the means of bringing about a good 
understanding between him and the Governor; 
for as it was true in the time of the Apostles, so 
was it in the days of Charles Borromeo, so is it 
still in our own days, so will it always be, that 
" to them who love God all things work together 
unto good." 

The Duke d Albuquerque was stupefied with 
grief and dismay when he heard the news of 
the attempted assassination. He hastened to 
the archiepiscopal palace, cordially embraced 
the Cardinal, and united with his numerous 
friends and retainers in expressions of sympathy. 
He declared he would not rest until he had 
brought the culprit and his accomplices to 
justice, but Charles said gently that he had 
pardoned the poor misguided man, and that he 
hoped he would not have to pay the penalty of 
his crime, adding with a slight touch of sarcasm : 
" All this solicitude of yours would be much more 


The Humble Ones 

advantageously employed in defending the epis 
copal rights and the liberties of the Church than 
in protecting the person of the Bishop !" 

The Governor commanded an armed guard to 
watch over the Archbishop s safety day and night. 
This guard Charles succeeded in getting rid of 
after a couple of days, and went about as usual, 
going and coming alone and unprotected, and 
continuing to allow all sorts and conditions of 
people to penetrate even into his bedroom at all 
hours, whenever they had business to transact, 
or, as was generally the case, when they were in 
need of assistance and asked for favours. 

His friends reproached him with this careless 
ness, telling him that it was not right to endanger 
a life so precious in the sight of God and so 
necessary to His Church, but Charles always 
replied with quiet confidence : " I owe my preser 
vation to Almighty God; He will continue to 
protect me; what He takes care of is well 

The joy of the Milanese was great at the miracu 
lous escape of their beloved pastor, the rooms of his 
palace were thronged with nobles and citizens, rich 
and poor, all vieing with each other in expressions 
of loyalty and devotion. Crowds followed him 
when he went out, and the vast aisles of the Duomo 
were invariably thronged when he officiated. 

A reaction had taken place ; even the refractory 
Canons of Santa Maria della Scala were apparently 
rejoiced at the miracle, and it was at this time 

St. Charles Borromeo 

that they came over in a body to the Cardinal, 
and all willingly accepted his reforms; but the 
best result was that Philip II., shocked and pained 
at the dastardly attempt made on the life of so 
saintly and irreproachable a prelate, wrote to the 
Duke d Albuquerque commanding him immedi 
ately to revoke the edict concerning the royal 
jurisdiction, adding that he wished all religious 
bodies to be under the superintendence of the 
Archbishop, and that he should freely visit and 
correct them. He also exhorted the Governor to 
leave no stone unturned in his search for the 
criminal, and always to show the utmost affection 
for the Cardinal, and to protect his person with 
zeal and diligence. 

The Sovereign Pontiff was also much affected 
by this cowardly attempt at assassination, and 
wrote in the kindest and most fatherly way to 
his "beloved son Charles," announcing his deter 
mination of suppressing the Order of the Umiliati. 
Charles pleaded their cause in vain ; the Pope 
was adamant, although the General of the 
Order, and the monks who had been more or 
less faithful to their vows, went to Rome, and, 
throwing themselves at his feet, protested their 
innocence of the crime and their abhorrence of 
it, and solemnly promised to accept all the reforms 
of their Archbishop. St. Pius V. would not listen 
to them, but on February 7, 1571, he issued a Bull 
declaring the Order of the Umiliati suppressed, 
and directed their convents, which numbered a 


The Humble Ones 

hundred, to be closed. He assigned to each monk 1 
a sufficient pension to enable him to live in a 
frugal and modest manner, and he reserved the 
right to dispose of their vast possessions. 

Charles asked him to give their largest and 
most famous monastery, that of the Brera, to 
the Jesuits, but the Pope refused ; and although 
Charles over and over again entreated him to do 
so, his decision was unalterable. 

Ormaneto, who acted as the Cardinal s agent 
in Rome, wrote to him : " It is absolutely useless 
for you to importune His Holiness, for, when he 
once refuses a request, nothing will afterwards 
induce him to grant it ; in fact, it annoys him to 
be asked again." 

However, in the following pontificate that of 
Gregory XIII. Charles realized his dream, 
and, getting permission from him, was able to 
hand over the monastery of the Brera to the 
Jesuits, and it became under their administration 
a celebrated University; but in 1772 they were 
dispossessed by the State, who rebuilt it, and 
turned it into a National Library, a Museum and 

At the present day it is a massive building with 
a double-galleried cortile. In the centre of the 
cortile is Canova s statue of Napoleon Bonaparte ; 
the Biblioteca Nazionale occupies a part of the 

1 There were only two or three monks in each monastery ; 
they had large revenues, and they led a luxurious and indo 
lent existence. 

St. Charles Borromeo 

building, and the Pinacoteca is entered from the 
upper loggia. In it are many rare and beautiful 
paintings by Milanese, Florentine, and Venetian 
artists. Indeed, it contains one of the finest 
collections in Northern Italy, but there is nothing 
in it of interest to a student of the life of St. Charles 

The Archbishop also reformed the Franciscans. 
They also had fallen into a state of decadence, and 
had some time previously injudiciously endeavoured 
to reform themselves by dividing into several 
branches ; and by reason of their separation, they 
all became degenerate, having lost the restraining 
and beneficial influence of a supreme head. 

Charles saw that the only way to restore order 
and regularity was to reunite the different branches, 
and to found a novitiate in which the spirit of 
poverty, obedience, and self-sacrifice, should be 
inculcated by word and example. With this end 
in view he compelled the Superiors to give up all 
personal property, and once more the old rule of 
having all in common was rigorously enforced. 
He met with some opposition, a few malcontents 
refusing to submit to his authority, even threaten 
ing and insulting him. Charles, however, treated 
them with such kindness and forbearance, dis 
playing at the same time great patience and 
discretion, as well as inflexible determination to 
carry his point, that the friars repented of their 
insolence and insubordination and accepted his 


The Humble Ones 

He convoked a conference of all the members 
in order to elect a Father-General, and he induced 
the friars to renew their vows of poverty, chastity, 
and obedience ; once more the old spirit of evan 
gelical poverty took possession of the sons of 
St. Francis, the ancient fervour was restored, 
and the penitent and reunited monks with re 
newed ardour returned to the original rules of their 
seraphic founder. 

Thus did Charles Borromeo by tact and firm 
ness save from threatened destruction one of the 
most glorious Orders of the Church, restoring to 
it by salutary and necessary reform its pristine 



" CHARITY must be boundless, so also must 
almsgiving," Charles Borromeo said on several 
occasions, and he proved that he was not one of 
those who say, but do not ; rather, his deeds outran 
his words, as he showed when, in 1570, a terrible 
famine ravaged Milan. 

His charity and almsgiving were indeed bound 
less. For more than three months he fed nearly 
four thousand people at his own expense, until he 
had not a penny left, and had to implore the well- 
off members of his flock to come to the aid of the 
starving poor. They did so with generous 
munificence, and their charity was rewarded ; the 
pressing dangers passed happily away, and 
Lombardy was saved from the devastating effects 
caused not only by the scarcity of food, but the 
greater danger that arose from the severe cold and 
from the after-effects of unprecedented snow 
storms. The snow lay in places eight feet deep, 
and the imminent peril was that, when it melted, 
the rush of water would carry away entire 
villages and destroy the grain that had been sown. 


The Famine of Milan 

In this extremity Charles had recourse to 
prayer and fasting, exhorting his flock to unite 
with him in supplication to Almighty God. Their 
prayers were heard : a balmy wind from the south 
slowly and gently melted the snow ; not only was 
no harm done, but never had the Milanese 
gathered in so plentiful and rich a harvest as in 
the succeeding autumn. Charles recommended 
the farmers to cultivate Indian corn, as it was 
likely to be of great use in case of another famine. 
The grateful Milanese called it Carlone, in com 
pliment to their generous and prudent Archbishop, 
and in Lombardy it is called by that name at the 
present day. Charles resumed his pastoral visits, 
but with difficulty, for his superb constitution was 
at last giving way. He had overtaxed his strength 
for years, but he would not rest, and early in 1571 
he once more set out to visit the Catholic cantons of 
Switzerland. He was, as we have seen, protector 
of these cantons, and had previously visited them 
at considerable risk ; for he had to travel through 
wild and desolate districts, amongst mountaineers 
who were barely civilized. Once, when riding across 
the mountains, his path lay along a narrow ledge, 
with a deep ravine on one side and a perpendicular 
wall on the other. His mule slipped, and fell upon 
him. His companions thought he was disabled 
or dead, but he was quite unhurt. On another 
occasion, on the borders of the Valtelline, he had to 
cross a swollen torrent. A peasant offered to carry 
him over, but in mid-stream let him fall, and then 


St. Charles Borromeo 

ran off, leaving the Cardinal in his long robes 
struggling in the midst of a deep and dangerous 
mountain torrent. Once again his life was 
miraculously preserved. He had to walk a couple 
of miles before he met anyone, and at last, when 
he succeeded in getting shelter, his first care was 
to order a search to be made for the man who had 
so basely left him to drown. No sooner was this 
individual brought to him, than he heaped coals 
of fire upon his head, giving him money, and 
treating him with the greatest kindness and 
consideration. When thus travelling through his 
diocese, he always stopped at the priest s house. 
In some of the more remote hamlets, that was 
often a miserable cottage, with accommodation for 
only one person. The Cardinal invariably slept 
on a table, giving the only available bed to his 
companion, and he partook, as a rule, of merely a 
little milk and chestnuts in order that this com 
panion and the priest might enjoy a more plentiful 
meal. Yet in the remotest districts he insisted that 
the outward ceremonial should be strictly observed. 
He always had the episcopal cross solemnly borne 
before him when he entered a church to celebrate 
the Holy Sacrifice, and he invariably wore the 
mitre and other insignia of his high position. 

His great happiness was to give Holy Com 
munion himself, for he had a very special devotion 
to the Blessed Eucharist. He was surprised and 
horrified to find it treated with carelessness and 
neglect in many of the remote parishes, where 


The Famine of Milan 

ignorant priests were not only neglectful of their 
churches, but paid scant reverence to the Blessed 

In an incredibly short time he changed this sad 
state of affairs. He impressed upon his priests 
the absolute necessity of leading good and 
virtuous lives, of caring for their people and for 
their churches, and strictly forbade them to allow 
parents and guardians to send their little ones 
to heretical schools. He also insisted on the 
banishment of heretics from the Catholic cantons, 
telling the pastors and the civil authorities that 
they on no pretext should allow a heretic into their 
parishes. He endeavoured to arrest the progress 
of heresy, by sending holy and learned priests to 
these mountainous regions, and for this purpose he 
founded the Swiss College at Milan : for through 
out Switzerland the authorities only allowed 
ecclesiastics of their own nationality to officiate, 
or even to enter their country ; consequently it was 
absolutely necessary that these men should be well 

In the Swiss College they received this train 
ing, and in due time went back to their own 
country, ready and willing to devote their talents 
and their lives to the instruction and edification of 
their parishioners. 

In 1571, after a short stay in Switzerland, 
Charles was compelled through ill health to 
return to Milan, and soon had to go to Varallo for 
a change of air. 


St. Charles Borromeo 

On July 24, 1571, he wrote to Blessed Sauli, 
Bishop of Aleria : 

" I was obliged to spend Whit-Sunday in bed, 
as I had an attack of malignant fever. I am a 
little better, but every three days I have a fresh 
paroxysm ; already I have suffered from nine of 
these violent attacks. I left Milan a few days 
ago, hoping a change would improve my health, 
so I came to this remote part of my diocese. It 
is surrounded by hills, and the air is splendidly 
invigorating. I have been now for six days 
taking a rest at Varallo. 

" The mysteries of our redemption are repre 
sented in several little chapels here, and it has 
been a great source of interest to me to meditate 
on them ; doing so has much refreshed me." 

After a short stay at this mountain village, 
though still very feeble, he endeavoured to resume 
his pastoral visitations. At Massila he heard of 
the sudden death of the Duke d Albuquerque. 
The sad news grieved him deeply, for he liked 
and esteemed the Governor, notwithstanding the 
slight interruption of their friendly intercourse at 
the time of the trouble with the Canons of Santa 
Maria della Scala, and he hastened back to Milan 
to perform the last rites of the Church for the 
deceased, and to console the sorrowing widow and 

During this eventful year all Christendom had 
watched with wild excitement, not unmixed with 
terror, the conflict between the Venetians and the 

The Battle of Lepanto 

Turks. In the previous year the latter had 
invaded and conquered Cyprus, and had treated 
their unfortunate captives with revolting cruelty. 
When St. Pius V. heard of their atrocious deeds, 
he wept bitter tears, and after long hours spent in 
prayer and penance he redoubled his efforts to 
persuade the Christian Princes to come to the aid 
of the Venetian Republic in their war against the 

He succeeded. Under the command of Don 
John of Austria, the allied fleets of Spain, Genoa, 
the Holy See, and Venice, commanded respectively 
by Sebastiano Venier of Genoa, Andrea Doria of 
Venice, and the Roman Prince Marc Antonio 
Colonna, won the famous Battle of Lepanto on 
October 7, 1571, the Feast of the Holy Rosary. 
It was one of the most decisive victories of the 
world, for it checked for ever the Mohammedan 
power in the Gulf of Corinth. 

We can fancy how rejoiced Charles was when 
he heard the glad tidings. Not only, like all the 
rest of Christendom, did his soul overflow with 
thanksgiving and gratitude to Almighty God for 
this signal success of the allied fleets, but, 
naturally, his heart was stirred in quite a special 
way with joyous pride in the triumphal return to 
the Eternal City of the conqueror Marc Antonio 
Colonna, the father-in-law of his dearest sister 

He was even more pleased when he learned of 
the humble and modest demeanour of this truly 

97 H 

St. Charles Borromeo 

noble and gallant hero while his praises were 
proclaimed in the Church of Ara Coeli. In his 
exaltation he wished all Christendom to unite in 
canticles of praise and gratitude to the Most High. 
He wrote to Monsignor Carniglia, who was at that 
time his agent in Rome, on October 24, 1571 : 

" On the occasion of this great victory, granted 
to us by the grace of God, I cannot help letting 
you know how great is our hope and our desire 
that His Holiness will proclaim a jubilee, in order 
that the faithful may unite in thanksgiving to God 
for so glorious a victory." 



CHARLES was still in an extremely weak state 
when the mournful tidings reached him of the 
death of the Sovereign Pontiff. The pontificate 
of Pius V. had lasted for six years, and on May i, 
1572, he passed away to his reward. 

On hearing the news, the Archbishop went at 
once to the Duomo, to offer up a Requiem Mass 
for the repose of the soul of the venerable Pope, 
and to exhort the people to join with him in 
prayer to God to direct the Sacred College in 
their choice of a successor ; but when he spoke of 
the heroic virtues and noble qualities of St. Pius, 
tears choked him, and he sobbed aloud, so dear 
to his heart was the memory of that grand and 
courageous Pope. 

In spite of the advice of his physicians, he set 
out for Rome to take part in the coming election. 
They, however, insisted on sending with him a 
mule laden with various medicines and remedies ; 
but near Bologna the mule fell into the river, the 
bottles got broken, and the physic flowed away 
into the stream. This misadventure greatly amused 


St. Charles Borromeo 

Charles. He remarked, with a laugh : " It is a 
good sign, and shows that I need no longer use 
these remedies." 

As a matter of fact, he arrived in Rome in the 
best of health. The Cardinals met in conclave 
on May 12, 1572, and on the following day 
Cardinal Ugo Boncompagni of Bologna was 
unanimously elected. He took the name of 
Gregory XIII. He and Charles were old friends, 
for he had been one of the most brilliant 
Academicians at the Vatican Nights, and had 
afterwards distinguished himself during the last 
sessions of the Council of Trent, having been 
sent there by Pius IV. to wind it up. 

Charles wished to return at once to his diocese, 
but the new Pope insisted that he should spend a 
few months in Rome. His health once more gave 
way, and the Pope persuaded him, though with 
difficulty, to consult some of the leading physi 
cians ; but they did not agree. Some of them 
said it was essential he should go through the 
cure at the baths of Lucca ; others said that 
treatment would kill him. In this dilemma 
Charles took the law into his own hands, and, 
" having delivered himself from the cruel bondage 
of the doctors," resumed what to most of us would 
seem as severe a cure namely, rigid fasting and 
abstinence and vigorous discipline. Under this 
strenuous regime he gained strength every day, 
and afterwards he frequently told his friends that, 
" when the doctors had exhausted all their remedies 

Death of St. Pius V. 

in endeavouring to cure me, I gave them all up 
completely, and cured myself by fasting and ab 
stinence, that in a short time I was quite well." 

Thus, abstinence was called by everyone 
" Cardinal Borromeo s cure." 

During his stay in Rome, he persuaded Gre 
gory XIII. to allow him to resign his offices of 
Archpriest of Santa Maria Maggiore, of Grand 
Penitentiary and Protector of the Franciscans and 
Carmelites. St. Pius V. had always resolutely 
refused to permit him to give up these appoint 
ments, and Charles rejoiced exceedingly that at 
last it was evidently the will of God that he 
should be quite free to devote himself absolutely 
to the care of his diocese. He returned to Milan 
by Loreto, arriving in that blessed spot on the 
Eve of All Saints. He spent the night in prayer 
in the small and humble room in which the Arch 
angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin 
Mary : " Blessed art thou amongst women." 

The following morning Charles had the happi 
ness of offering up there the Holy Sacrifice of the 
Mass ; and his mind and body both strengthened 
and refreshed by this flying visit to his favourite 
shrine, he set out for Milan, to arrive there in time 
for Advent, which, according to the Ambrosian 
Calendar, begins on the first Sunday after the 
feast of St. Martin. 

He arrived at Milan on November 12, and at 
once wrote to the Pope, formally resigning all the 
dignities and appointments his uncle, Pius IV., 

St. Charles Borromeo 

had conferred upon him. He was Protector of 
Germany and of Portugal, and therefore wrote to 
the Emperor and to the King, telling them that 
he had placed his resignation in the hands of the 
Sovereign Pontiff. 

He had for some time hesitated about the dis 
posal of the Abbey of San Gratiano e San Felino 
at Arona. It was, as we have seen, a sort of 
" family living," but it was not because he knew 
he would incur his relatives anger by renouncing 
it that he delayed. It was because he was unde 
cided on whom to confer it. He finally resolved 
to give it to the Jesuits, to found a novitiate in 
connection with the College of the Brera, which 
Gregory XIII. had allowed him to give them. 

Having thus successfully denuded himself of all 
the honours and emoluments that St. Pius V. had 
insisted on his retaining, saving only his dearly 
loved See, he was free to devote himself unre 
servedly to the holding of his third Provincial 




THEIR Archbishop had been but a short time 
amongst them, when the Milanese noticed that 
he had grown holier and more austere. His 
prayers were more frequent and more prolonged, 
his penances more severe. Indeed, his historians 
remark that each time that he returned from the 
Eternal City he was more saintly, more seraphic. 
It seemed as though from that blessed place, that 
is hallowed by the blood of numberless martyrs, 
and sanctified by the purity and celestial ardour 
of so many saints, Charles Borromeo gained fresh 
fervour and strength to tread the difficult and 
thorny path that grew daily more difficult and 
more thorny. 

" To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite ; 
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night ; 
To defy Power which seems omnipotent ; 
To love and bear ; to hope till Hope creates 
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates ; 
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent : 
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be 
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free, 
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory." 

Charles was the Christian Titan who was to war, 
not only with the Powers of Darkness, but with 

St. Charles Borromeo 

the Temporal Power given to despotic and ignorant 
men. He was to wage a deathless war against 
the pride and pomp of the world, in behalf of the 
rights of Holy Church. He had already proved 
himself her unconquerable champion ; once more 
he was about to enter the lists and combat suc 
cessive tyrannical Governors. 

Charles had scarcely arrived in Milan, when the 
storm once more broke forth. On the death of 
the Duke d Albuquerque, Philip II. had appointed 
Don Alvarez de Sandes as Governor pro tern. He 
was an arrogant and stupid man, and his foolish 
head was quite turned by the grandeur of his 
exalted position. 

" Dressed in a little brief authority, 
Most ignorant of what he s most assured 
His glassy essence like an angry ape, 
Plays such fantastic tricks before high Heaven 
As make the angels weep." 

Don Alvarez was determined that he, not the 
Archbishop, should indeed and in truth, as well 
as in name, be the true ruler of Milan. This 
pestilent priest was having things too much his 
own way; he was changing the lives of the 
citizens, he was turning them into good practical 
Catholics, who led peaceful and holy existences, 
frequenting the Sacraments, attending daily Mass, 
and giving liberal alms ; in fact, they were no 
longer the roistering, jovial, unregenerate people 
of former days. This sort of thing must not be 
allowed to go on ; the Milanese must cease to be 

Church versus State 

saints, and become sinners again. With this 
object in view, the new Governor announced that 
there would be a bull-fight and other games in 
the Piazza del Duomo during the carnival. These 
frolics would allure the people, and, instead of 
going inside the Duomo to pray, they would 
remain outside to play. 

When Charles heard of it, he sternly forbade 
the games to be held there, under pain of excom 
munication. Don Alvarez was compelled to yield, 
but he held the spectacle in front of the Castello ; 
and he induced many of the nobles to give balls 
and masquerades during Lent, although Charles 
had forbidden that such entertainments should 
be held during the penitential season. He even 
started various mummeries on holidays of obliga 
tion, and at the very hour of Divine service. 
Death cut him short in the midst of his nefarious 
designs, and he passed away unregretted, and as 
far as we can gather unrepentant. 

The King appointed Don Castiglia Luis de 
Requesens Governor of Milan. He was an old 
friend of Charles Borromeo s, for he had been 
Spanish Ambassador at the Vatican during the 
pontificate of Pius IV. Everyone rejoiced when 
they heard of his appointment, and on his arrival 
he was cordially welcomed by priests and people ; 
for all thought that strife and contention were 
over and done with, and that in future peace, love, 
and harmony, would reign between the civil and 
ecclesiastical authorities. They were the more 

St. Charles Borromeo 

grievously disappointed when they discovered 
that their hopes were but fond delusions, and 
that Don Luis was a far more dangerous and 
virulent opponent to the rights of Holy Church 
than either of his predecessors. 

Don Luis started his campaign against the 
ecclesiastical authority by the case of Resta, a 
Milanese who had a lawsuit with the nuns of 
Galarete which had been for some time dragging 
its slow course through the Ecclesiastical Court, 
when at their Governor s instigation the ministers 
thought fit to interfere and to defend Resta. This 
was a violation of the canonical law, and fell 
under the censure of the Bull Ccena Domini. 

The Archbishop at once referred the case to 
Rome, waiting to the Holy Father that he was 
willing to abide by his decision in that and in 
all things. 

Requesens did not let the grass grow under 
his feet, for he produced a letter written some 
time previously by Philip II., and addressed to the 
late Duke d Albuquerque. There was so much in 
it prejudicial to the ecclesiastical authority that 
the Duke had feared to publish it. Don Luis, 
having found it, threatened the Archbishop, but in 
a half-playful manner, that he was about to make 
its contents known. Charles thought he but 
jested, and paid no attention to him in fact, 
started on his pastoral visitations. 

He had scarcely left Milan, when Don Luis 
placarded copies of the document all over the 

Church versus State 

city. Charles returned in haste, and in his turn 
threatened to excommunicate the Governor if he 
did not at once give a full, true, and particular 
account of the letter, and explain that it bore 
an old date, and that the King had absolutely 
changed his mind on the subject. 

Don Luis refused; entreaties, arguments, threats, 
failed to move him. Finally, Charles felt com 
pelled, though sorely against his inclination, to 
excommunicate the Governor, the Chancellor, and 
their adherents. 

The Governor retorted by a long manifesto 
" against the aggressions of Cardinal Borromeo," 
and a terrible struggle ensued. Shortly afterwards 
Don Luis posted a vile attack on the Cardinal on 
the doors of several of the churches. This libel 
declared that " Cardinal Borromeo was an ignorant 
and degraded man, incapable of fulfilling the 
duties of his exalted position, and that he was 
the originator of all the troubles and dissensions 
between Church and State, that he was a traitor 
to his King and his country," and so on. 

Charles sent a copy of this pasquinade, as it 
was called, to Monsignor Castelli, writing : " I 
enclose the Pasquin : what do you say to it ? 
You see they have given me a pasquinade for 
my excommunication." 

Don Luis forbade the meetings of the various 
confraternities unless a magistrate were present ; 
he put an armed guard round the archiepiscopal 
palace ; he watched and spied on every member 


St. Charles Borromeo 

of the Cardinal s household ; and he did all in his 
power to prevent the faithful from attending 
Divine service. 

He wished to make Charles a prisoner, and 
when he failed he forbade anyone to accompany 
him or to speak to him ; but Charles passed in and 
out with his usual quiet dignity, going and coming 
unconcernedly, and paying no attention to the 
soldiers who were ordered to prevent his people 
from approaching him. As a matter of fact, these 
rough men were so touched by his calm serenity 
and dauntless courage that they one and all knelt 
before him as he passed the cavaliers dismount 
ing in order to do so imploring him to bless them. 

In a spirit of contemptible meanness, the 
Governor actually ordered the ancient fortress 
of the Borromei the Rocca d Arona to be 
seized. He sent Count Angosciola, who was 
in command of the troops at Como, to take 
possession of the Rocca in the King s name, and 
to take the command from Giulio Beolchi, who 
held it for the Cardinal ; for though, as we have 
seen, Charles had bestowed it on his uncle, Count 
Francis Borromeo, he was still looked on by 
everyone as the head of the house: so when 
Don Luis committed this last aggression, it was 
to Charles that Captain Giulio Beolchi appealed, 
asking for instructions, for he did not intend to 
surrender the fortress to Count Angosciola unless 
ordered to do so by Charles Borromeo. 

The Archbishop commanded him to give it up 

Church versus State 

without delay, and sent Count Francis Borromeo 
to Don Luis to tell him that it had been quite 
unnecessary for him to send armed troops to take 
the Rocca ; for it and everything else lands, 
castles, fiefs, all the possessions of the Borromei 
belonged to the King, and Charles and his uncles 
were willing to surrender them all to prove their 
loyalty and fidelity to the Crown. 

Charles afterwards said to the Governor : " It 
was useless for you to send an armed force ; you 
have but to say the word, and the Rocca d Arona, 
the Castello d Angera, and all our other fiefs, will 
be immediately given to the King to do what he 
pleases with them. But in whatever concerns the 
Church and the Divine service I will make no 



" I HAVE found in the city of Milan another 
Ambrose," Don Luis wrote to Philip II. 

We wonder, did the arrogant Governor think 
that he was another Theodosius, and did he hope 
he would be more successful in the struggle for 
supremacy than the Roman Emperor ? 

It would undoubtedly have been a splendid 
triumph to have compelled the successor and the 
imitator of St. Ambrose to yield. 

But Charles Borromeo was as inflexibly resolved 
to safeguard the rights of the ecclesiastical over the 
civil power but not in temporal things as had 
been the glorious Champion of the Church in olden 
times. His strength of character was as great, his 
mind as powerful, his soul as pure and noble, and 
certainly his courage was as dauntless. He, too, 
having bid defiance to the pomp and pride of State, 
would if necessary, in vindication of the supreme 
authority of Rome, have compelled the Governor 
nay, the King himself to kneel before the porch of 
the Duomo, barring the entrance to the sanctuary 
until fitting penance had been performed. 

Fortunately, this last drastic measure was 

" Another Ambrose " 

unnecessary ; for although Don Luis continued to 
persecute the Archbishop, annoying and thwarting 
him on every occasion, even meddling with his 
correspondence, and confiscating the explanatory 
letters Charles wrote to the Pope and the King, 
yet in the end the good cause triumphed. The 
following extract from a letter Charles wrote at 
this time to Monsignor Castelli is very character 
istic of our saint, and gives us a fair idea of the 
unruffled calmness of his soul during this long and 

bitter strife : 

"MILAN, September 3, 1573. 

" It grieves me to see that you are all very 
excited in Rome over the Rocca d Arona. I did 
not expect, and certainly do not wish, you to take 
it to heart. I only mentioned it in order that you 
should understand how strenuously, not to say 
vindictively, they act here, and not in order that 
the Holy Father should interfere on my behalf in 
this matter of the Rocca. No ; I hope he will 
not in any way endeavour either here or in Spain 
to compel them to give it back to me. I consider 
that his intervention would be prejudicial to the 
interests of the Church, for they might imagine 
that for the sake of our temporal interests we 
should be willing to be silent on ecclesiastical 
matters. At any rate perhaps it is pride, I know 
not it is my opinion that it would be low and 
mean even to think of one s own private grievances, 
much more to say a word to remedy them when 
such high and sacred causes are at stake. No ; 

St. Charles Borromeo 

even if they take from me, not only Arona, but all 
the rest of the family estates, and deprive me as 
well of the revenues of the See of Milan, I should 
not feel inclined to use spiritual arms against 
them, or even to say a word of complaint, unless 
His Holiness expressly commanded me to do so, 
lest my example might make other prelates timid 
in the defence of their rights. 

" I have calculated all necessary expenses, and I 
have quite enough to live upon, so you need not 
be anxious about me. 

In the meantime the Governor had both written 
and sent envoys to Rome and Spain, but at both 
Courts Charles had clever and powerful friends, 
who were able to unravel the tangled skein of the 
Governor s purposely involved complaints. 

Indeed, the senator sent by him to the Pope 
was seriously injured by a kick from a horse while 
on his journey ; however, he was able to reach 
Rome, but no sooner did he attempt to plead the 
cause of the Governor and Senate of Milan before 
the Holy Father, than he was seized by a fit of 
apoplexy, and died shortly afterwards, unable to 
utter a word. 

The Papal Nuncio at the Court of Madrid was at 
this period Monsignor Ormanetto, Bishop of Padua, 
and former Vicar-General of Milan. He was a 
devoted adherent and loyal friend of the persecuted 
Archbishop. After a time Philip yielded to the 
representations and arguments of this learned and 


Another Ambrose 

holy man, and agreed to remove the truculent 
Governor from Milan and appoint him to com 
mand the troops in Flanders. 

Everyone hoped that when Don Luis de 
Requesens left Italy peace would be restored, and 
Church and State would no longer be at logger 

Unfortunately, an episode occurred that post 
poned for a time this happy result. 

The fact that he was under the censure of the 
Church caused Don Luis . poignant suffering, not 
only because his conscience condemned him, but 
also because his friends and acquaintances stood 
afar off, and looked on him askance. He was not 
sufficiently manly and straightforward to go 
direct to the Archbishop, confess his fault and his 
sorrow, and ask forgiveness. Instead he en 
deavoured in a roundabout and underhand way to 
become reconciled with Holy Church. He per 
suaded friends of his in Rome to ask the Pope to 
remove the sentence of excommunication. They 
told Gregory XIII. that Don Luis de Requesens 
had been appointed Commander of the Spanish 
Army in Flanders. This was true, but they also 
told him that Don Luis had left Milan, and was 
on his way to the Low Countries. This was not 
true, for the Governor was still in Milan. Acting 
on the belief that both these statements were 
absolutely correct, the Holy Father granted a brief 
conferring faculties on any priest, to whom Don 
Luis made his confession, to give him absolution. 
113 i 

St. Charles Borromeo 

Accordingly, Don Luis went to the monastery of 
the Recollects, and confessed to Father Leonard, 
one of the monks of the Order. This priest, 
having read the brief and acting in good faith, 
gave him absolution, and the following morning 
Requesens attended Holy Mass at the monastery 
and received Holy Communion. Afterwards he 
attended the Holy Sacrifice at several churches, 
but when Charles heard of it he was deeply 
moved, for he did not know that the Pope had 
granted a brief and that the Governor had received 
absolution. He therefore prohibited all the priests 
in the diocese from offering up the Holy Sacrifice 
when Requesens was present. 

Naturally, there was considerable agitation over 
all this ; the Governor was annoyed, the people 
were bewildered, and it seemed as though a fresh 
and more strenuous conflict was about to com 

Charles wrote at once to Rome, and when the 
Pope heard the true version of the case, and 
learned that Don Luis, instead of being on his 
way to Flanders, was still in Milan, he was justly 
angered with the men who had so grossly de 
ceived him. He ordered Requesens to give full 
satisfaction to the Archbishop according to the 
canonical law. Don Luis complied, and frankly 
asked pardon, probably because he was weary of 
strife and wished to be at peace with God and 
man before undertaking his new duties. In his 
inmost heart he appears to have always cherished 

Another Ambrose 

a great respect and sincere admiration for Charles. 
Two years later, when Don Luis lay on his death 
bed mentally worn out by the strain and anxiety 
caused by the frequent defeats of his troops, and 
physically wasted by disease, he wrote to the 
Archbishop again, asking him to forgive the past, 
and begging the saint to pray for him. Needless 
to say that on both occasions Charles generously 
complied with his request. 

The Chancellor also rested under the ban of 
excommunication. He not only did not repent, 
but laughed and jested at the anathemas hurled 
at him. His pleasantries, however, soon ceased, 
for a strange melancholy took possession of him. 
The doctors tried every known remedy, but in 
vain. Nothing could rouse him from the state of 
hopeless despair into which he had fallen, and it 
was only after six years of terrible mental trouble, 
coupled with extreme bodily weakness, that, feel 
ing he was about to pass away unabsolved, he 
sent for Charles and implored his pardon. 

The Archbishop related this incident in the 
following letter to his friend Monsignor 
Speciano : 

"MILAN, April 16, 1579. 

" I wish you were here, so that you could see 
for yourself how false are the reports that have 
been circulated about me. They say that the 
King s Ministers detest me. Well, to-day the 
JLord Chancellor, who is at the point of death, 
sent for me, confessed to me, and received from 

St. Charles Borromeo 

my hands the Bread of Life. Afterwards he asked 
my advice about making his will, and later on 
signed it in my presence, and he conferred with 
me for a long time on his most private affairs." 

Charles wrote to Castelli : 

" I really do not know whether I have more 
faith than you, but I always feel that one must 
place all one s confidence in God. I think nay, 
I am certain that the less help and support we 
receive from men, the more certain we are of 
heavenly consolation and assistance. God always 
takes greatest care of those who are forsaken by 
men, and He manifests to them on these occasions 
in fullest measure His infinite goodness and 




ON August 10, 1574, Charles Borromeo set out 
to meet the young King of France at Monza. 
The ill-fated, mad, misguided Charles IX. had 
passed away he whose memory will ever inspire 
loathing mingled with pity, whose brief reign is 
stained blood-red with the unspeakable, unthink 
able horrors of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. 
He was succeeded by his brother Henry, then 
King of Poland, but who, on hearing of his acces 
sion to the throne of France, fearing his subjects 
would endeavour to detain him, fled from his 
small kingdom and passed through Italy on his 
way to Paris. Truth to tell, he dallied somewhat 
in the fair cities of the South, particularly in 
Venice, where he was right royally entertained ; 
but he was at last hastening, and, as he had not 
time to visit Milan, the Archbishop thought it 
advisable to go to Monza to meet him. The 
Pope was most desirous that these two the 
saintly ascetic and the frivolous Prince should 
hold converse together ; for he considered that the 
strong personality of Charles would exercise a 

St. Charles Borromeo 

beneficial influence on the character of the giddy 
young King. He hoped the Archbishop would 
succeed in instilling into the mind of the monarch 
his own deep religious convictions, his high-souled 
ideals and noble aims, and that the new King 
would lead his people upward, onward, rescuing 
some from the spiritual lethargy into which they 
had fallen, saving others from the evils of heresy, 
and would himself, the eldest son of the Church, 
restore to France her ancient splendour, making 
her in truth and in deed, as in word and in name, 
the eldest daughter of the Church. 

Charles has described his meeting with 
Henry III. in a very clear and decidedly charac 
teristic letter. It is too long to translate in full, 
but the following extracts will give an idea of the 
thoughts and emotions he experienced on this 
memorable occasion. 

" You ask me to give you a full and particular 
account of my interviews with the King of France, 
and the impressions I received during them, telling 
me it is the express order of His Holiness that I 
should do so. It is not easy to form a correct 
judgment when intercourse has been brief and 
superficial. I met Henry twice, and for a very 
short time, and we were only able to converse on 
ordinary topics. Nevertheless, I will do my best 
to obey the Pope s command : I visited His 
Majesty with the intention of doing and saying 
what the Holy Ghost would inspire me to do and 
say in order to promote the greater honour and 

The Most Christian King 

glory of God, and to forward the interests of 
Christianity. This is what passed between us : 
I expressed to him as clearly and succinctly as I 
could the hope we felt that his future career 
would be in accordance with the noble actions of 
his past life, and that he would act energetically 
and vigorously against the enemies of God and of 
the Catholic religion. 

" He cordially agreed with my views, and prom 
ised to do his utmost to continue to merit our 
good opinion. He said, as he was * the Most 
Christian King, he was consequently the first 
King of Christendom, and as such he considered 
it his duty to do all in his power to promote the 
greater honour of God, particularly in his own 

" I was much edified by the gentle demeanour 
and grave courtesy of the Prince. He is modest, 
pious, and sedate, and he has given undeniable 
proofs of possessing a religious disposition ; for he 
has never failed to visit the churches at all the 
various places where he has broken his journey. 
I celebrated Holy Mass in his presence, and he 
assisted with much devotion. He told me that 
since his childhood he has gone to confession 
once a month, and attended daily Mass. I sent 
him a crucifix, with a message that it was under 
the standard of the Cross he should fight in his 
dominions against the foes of the true Faith. 
He was at breakfast when he received it, sur 
rounded by courtiers and attendants. He took 

St. Charles Borromeo 

the crucifix, kissed it devoutly, and placed it 
before him on the table, after looking at it with 
great fervour and piety." 

That Charles Borromeo was deceived in the 
estimate he formed of the King of France is not 
surprising. They only met twice, and conversed 
together for but a very short time. In those days 
Henry III. was young, charming, attractive; he 
had much natural grace and ability, and it was 
impossible that even so sagacious and keen a 
judge of character as the reforming Cardinal could 
detect the weakness and insincerity hidden behind 
his frank, genial manner. Henry was devout all 
his life. Even when sunk to the lowest depths of 
sloth and degradation ; even when, deceiving and 
deceived, he had worn out the loyalty of his 
friends and had earned the contempt of his foes, 
he prayed and fasted, assisted at Holy Mass, and 
was superstitiously devout. It may not have been 
his fault that the evil genius of the House of 
Valois, his treacherous, scheming, pitiless mother, 
Catherine de Medici, so dominated his weaker 
nature that he yielded to her his manhood and 
his strength, sacrificing at her bidding the noble 
ideals, the lofty aims, that had rilled his soul when 
he and Charles Borromeo conversed together in 
the quaint old town of Monza. 

During his short sojourn Charles performed 
there a memorable and well - authenticated 
miracle. A girl lived there who was, in the 
opinion of all who knew her, possessed by the 


The Christian Doctrine 

devil. She was generally in a state of the deepest 
melancholy, but when she assisted at Holy Mass 
or was in presence of the Blessed Sacrament she 
was seized by the most horrible convulsions, foam 
ing at the mouth and showing all the signs of 
demoniacal possession. 

The unfortunate girl herself was quite aware of 
her dreadful condition. Her only hope was in 
the mercy of God. Accordingly, when she saw 
the saintly servant of the Most High passing her 
house, she rushed out, threw herself at his feet, 
and implored him to bless her. Charles gave her 
his benediction with great fervour, and even as he 
did so the evil spirit fled, and she was completely 

On his return to Milan, Charles devoted much 
time to the perfecting of the Confraternity of the 
Christian Doctrine. This pious and most useful 
association had been established some years 
previously in Milan by a priest of the Diocese of 
Como, named Castellino di Castello, a priest so 
innocent and childlike that he was called the 
Father of Purity. 

It was not surprising that one whose own 
character was sweet and simple, like that of a 
little child, should have formed a Congregation 
whose chief object was the education of the little 
ones. It was composed mainly of laymen, and it 
was part of their rule to gather little children 
together, to allure them from the frivolous, often 
dangerous, amusements of the streets, and to 

St. Charles Borromeo 

bring them to the schools and colleges, where 
they were instructed in the truths of our holy 

These zealous and generous men were called 
Fishers, and wore the badge of a fisherman. 

The children, thus rescued from the evils of 
the streets, became in their turn little apostles, 
inducing their parents to frequent the Sacraments 
and visit the churches. 

Charles, while occupied in caring for the souls 
of the young Milanese lads, did not neglect to see 
after the salvation of the girls. 

In 1537 Angela de Mericia founded an Order 
at Brescia called the Virgins of St. Ursula. The 
principal object of these good nuns was to instruct 
young girls in the knowledge of Christian doctrine. 
Later on they opened a convent at Milan, and 
Charles did all in his power to aid them in their 
pious work, giving them a definite rule, and helping 
them to extend their convents by encouraging 
young girls to enter the Order. 

Such was the origin of the now well-known and 
widespread Order of the Ursulines, and it was 
St. Charles Borromeo who practically founded 
it ; for he saved it from dying of inanition, and 
placed it on the highroad to become one of the 
greatest and most useful Congregations of devout 
women. It was not, however, until 1618 that it 
was formerly declared a Religious Order. 

Another favourite confraternity of the zealous 
Archbishop was that known as St. John the 


The Christian Doctrine 

Beheaded. This had for its object the care of 
condemned prisoners, and many of the nobility 
and of the most distinguished citizens were 

Another Order that looked upon Charles Bor- 
romeo as its second founder was that of the 
Clerks Regular of St. Paul, generally known as 
Barnabites. Their constitutions required revision, 
and their General, Dominic Sauli, who had been 
a student at the University of Padua at the same 
time as Charles, asked the Archbishop to under 
take the task. This he did, and soon many 
subjects joined the reformed Barnabites, and 
their monasteries were quickly filled with men of 
rare talent and piety. Sauli was a most zealous 
and learned priest, wise and prudent, and gifted 
with .rare penetration. Charles often consulted 
him on knotty problems, and almost invariably 
followed his advice. 

We can easily imagine the good done in the 
Diocese of Milan by all these pious confraternities, 
and we can picture to ourselves the reforming 
Cardinal passing from one community to another, 
encouraging, exhorting, inspiring monks and 
priests, nuns and people, with vigorous life and 
courageous confidence. 

"The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up" 
might well be applied to Charles Borromeo, for 
prayer and fasting, penances and austerities, had 
worn him to a shadow. It was as though only 
his soul lived, that he was no longer flesh and 


St. Charles Borromeo 

blood, but a glorified spirit, so frail was the 
earthly tenement that held the indomitable soul. 
Only by a superhuman effort could soul and body 
still cleave together ; and though Charles longed 
ardently to enter into life everlasting, he knew he 
had strenuous and difficult work to do before he 
could lay down the burden of life, so he steeled 
himself to carry on the numberless labours and 
good deeds he had put his hand to, going through 
the narrow streets and open squares of the fair 
City of the Plains like a seraph from Paradise. 
Following the example of his Divine Master, he 
went about doing good. 

" And He that sent Me is with Me, and He 
hath not left Me alone ; for I do always the things 
that please Him " (St. John viii. 29). 



THE year of our Lord 1575 was a holy year in 
Rome, and, indeed, throughout Christendom, for 
it was the year of Jubilee. Every twenty- five 
years, as we all know, the Sovereign Pontiff 
grants special favours and indulgences, particu 
larly to those who visit the Eternal City ; and 
Gregory XIII. was resolved to carry out with 
extraordinary solemnity and great magnificence 
the glorious and holy event that occurred during 
his pontificate. Consequently he summoned all 
the Cardinals to Rome, in order not only that they 
should be present at the opening ceremony, but 
that they should aid him with their counsels how 
best to minister to the wants of Holy Church, as 
well as to strengthen the bonds of Christian union. 
Charles Borromeo had not intended going to 
Rome until the autumn, and when he received the 
summons from the Pope he was somewhat dis 
turbed. All his arrangements for the year were 
made, and, as we know, he was most methodical, 
far-seeing, and accurate. The alteration of his 
plans caused him considerable inconvenience, not 
unmixed with a certain amount of annoyance. 

St. Charles Borromeo 

He wrote to Monsignor Carniglia : 

" I do not see that my presence in Rome will 
do any good, either as Cardinal or as Bishop, in 
helping to make arrangements for the Holy Year. 
. . . But since it is the wish of His Holiness that 
I go to Rome early in the year, and return to my 
diocese before Lent, I submit my judgment to his, 
and am ready to obey him in all things. . . . Yet 
I will not undertake the journey without a written 
order from the Pope . . . otherwise I should not 
be acting in accordance with the decrees of the 
Council of Trent." 

Charles was almost painfully conscientious, and 
all his life observed to the letter, as well as in the 
spirit, the smallest ordinance of the Church. 
Thus, we find him whenever outside his own 
dominion invariably using the Roman Rite, 
though towards the end of his life he asked 
and obtained permission always to use the 

Before starting he was tremendously busy, and 
worked with such untiring energy that he almost 
died of starvation, for he would not give even 
a few minutes to refreshment, much less to rest. 
He neither slept nor ate, and when his attendants 
announced that supper was ready, he replied : " It 
is too soon." Towards midnight, when they again 
interrupted him to implore him to take a little 
food, he replied, "It is too late," and went on 
with his work. 

He started on December 8, 1574, in the midst 

The Jubilee of 1575 

of the severest weather of a particularly severe and 
inclement winter. He visited many sanctuaries 
en route, spending hours in prayer on Monte 
Alverno, where the seraphic Francis of Assisi 
received the Sacred Stigmata. 

A wonderful ardour of Divine love filled the 
soul of Charles while he meditated on the 
miraculous and stupendous martyrdom that had 
transformed a mere man like himself into the 
likeness of the crucified Saviour. 

" During the journey," writes Lanfranc Reyna, 
" Cardinal Borromeo ate only dried raisins, nuts, 
and bread. We invariably arrived at an inn late 
at night, and, as we were not expected, no prep 
arations had been made, nothing was ready ; 
often we had no beds to sleep on, and could not 
get food. As soon as we dismounted we went to 
the Cardinal s room. We were generally covered 
with mud and wet to the skin. Of course he was 
in the same forlorn plight. Nevertheless we all 
knelt down, finished the Office, recited Litanies, 
then prayed for some time in silence, and these 
devotions ended with a discourse from His 
Eminence. Then we retired to rest, leaving him 
to pray during the silent hours; but at three in the 
morning we reassembled in his room, recited the 
first part of the Office, and afterwards we each 
and all offered up the Holy Sacrifice. Then we 
once more resumed our journey in the chill dawn 
of a cold December morning." 

Thirteen day^werc .apcB-t on this toilsome and 

St. Charles Borromeo 

arduous journey. Finally the pilgrims reached 
the Eternal City, to find it thronged with strangers 
and pilgrims of all nations. 

Muratori relates in an interesting and graphic 
way the history of the Holy Year. He tells us 
that more than three hundred thousand persons 
came from all parts of the world, and that there 
were generally about a hundred thousand pilgrims 
in the city every day. They came from Armenia, 
Arabia, and Syria, clothed in strange raiment, but 
indeed strangers thronged in from all parts of 
Europe and Asia. 

There were Princes and nobles of high degree, 
Ernest of Bavaria, Paolo Orsini, Alessandro 
Farnese, many German Princes, and greatest in 
our eyes, though perhaps scarce noticed then, Tor- 
quato Tasso, the world-famous poet, the brilliant 
author of " La Gerusalemme Liberata," " La 
Gerusalemme Conquistata," and of that romantic 
poem, " Rinaldo " he whose sad fate it was, 
many years later, to die ere the dearly-won laurel 
crown could touch his aching brows, who passed 
away in the moment of triumph, dying of ex 
haustion and fatigue on the very morning that 
was to have witnessed his coronation on the 
Capitol as poet laureate. 

Muratori also tells us that from December 25, 
1574, until May, 1575, the Confraternita dei 
Pellegrini gave food and shelter to ninety-six 
thousand eight hundred and forty-eight pilgrims. 

Charles gave twenty-five crowns a month to 

The Jubilee of 1575 

this confraternity. He also entertained in the 
palace he had built close to his Cardinal s Church 
of Santa Prassede a crowd of Milanese. They 
flocked there in such numbers that Gregory XIII., 
when giving a private audience to a nobleman of 
Milan, Count Louis Gallerati, inquired curiously : 
" How is it that more pilgrims have arrived to 
day from Milan than from anywhere else ?" 

" Holy Father, it is because my fellow-citizens 
are deeply touched and impressed by their 
pastor s example." 

The Sovereign Pontiff lifted his hands and eyes 
to heaven, exclaiming : " Where can we find 
those who will vie with him in sanctity ?" 

Another contemporary chronicler writes : " The 
officials of the Confraternita dei Pellegrini in the 
fervour of their charity promised His Holiness 
that they would lodge and feed six hundred 
pilgrims every day ; but, since the work was of 
God, the numbers increased so rapidly that soon 
the six hundred had grown to more than six 
thousand, so that during the year the confra 
ternity provided food and lodging for one hundred 
and forty-four thousand two hundred and sixty- 
three pilgrims, besides caring for twenty-one thou 
sand during sickness and convalesence. They were 
provided with all things needful to them, some for 
three days, others for five days, and those who 

came from beyond the mountains, for ten days 

The ceremony observed in this blessed place is 
rs follows: The pilgrims are received into the 

129 K 

St. Charles Borromeo 

house on the understanding that on the following 
day they receive the Sacraments of Penance and 
the Blessed Eucharist . . . and must have received a 
badge from the penitentaries. . . . When they are 
admitted, they are served at dinner by illustrious 
noblemen, and honourable gentlemen of all 
nations, who wear habits of red sackcloth and 
aprons. They perform their lowly office with 
great humility, charity, and obedience, and wait 
upon the poor with such brotherly love and 
watchful kindness and diligence that one could 
fancy each meal was the wedding banquet of a 
great Prince. . . . Many of these nobles washed the 
feet of the poor pilgrims, even shedding tears as 
they did so, at the thought of their own unworthi- 
ness to perform an office sanctified by our Divine 
Redeemer ; and the pilgrims in their turn were 
moved to tears, so touched were they by so great 
humility and devotion. Many refused to allow 
distinguished potentates and men of high rank to 
wash their feet, but were conquered by the gentle 
persuasion of these exalted personages, who con 
sidered it an honour to be of use to Christ s poor. 
Then when they had washed them and dressed 
their sores they brought them to the dormitories 
The same services were rendered to the women 
by noble and illustrious ladies. Priests and holy 
religious were there, who instructed the pilgrims, 
teaching them how best to prepare to receive the 
graces of the Jubilee, giving them little books to 
read, and supplying poor priests with breviaries. 

The Jubilee of 1575 

.... Alms flowed in abundantly, so that nothing 
was lacking that was necessary. . . . 

" On their return the pilgrims were accompanied 
to the city gates, and sent on their way with all 
they required for their journey. . . . Many nobles 
and gentlemen were so touched by the example 
set them by the Confraternita dei Pellegrini that 
they received pilgrims into their own palaces and 
houses, ministering to them in like manner. Nor 
must we omit to relate the wonderful effect 
produced on twelve heretics, one of them a leader 
of his sect, who had received hospitality from the 
confraternita ; for when they had seen these holy 
works of chanty, they meditated on them to such 
advantage that they were converted, and, returning 
to their homes, spread the truth in their own 
country, saying they had found Rome a holy city, 
and not at all the Babylon they had been taught 
to think it." 



DURING the six weeks Charles Borromeo spent in 
the Eternal City, the bonds of brotherly love and 
holy friendship that united him to the gentle 
Apostle of Rome grew and strengthened. They 
had loved and respected each other before, but in 
the Holy Year their mutual affection and admira 
tion so increased, that it might be said of them as 
of David and Jonathan : " Very pleasant hast 
thou been unto me : thy love was wonderful, 
passing the love of women." 

Yet, notwithstanding his affection for the Arch 
bishop, the saintly Oratorian refused to allow his 
dearest friend to rob him of his two dearly loved 
sons, Cesare Baronio and Francesco Maria Tarugi. 

The Congregation of the Oratory was in splendid 
working order at Santa Maria in Vallicella ; 
as it was not yet canonically raised into an 
Order, it had not a fixed Rule. In the following 
July, Gregory XIII. published a Bull formally 
founding the Congregation of the Oratory ; it 
contains the following passage relative to the 
statutes of the Order : " Let them reform at their 
discretion the statutes and rules already made ; let 


" Tales Ambio Defensores 

them limit, or modify, or add to them as may 
appear to them expedient. And such statutes or 
rules thus changed or reformed or added to shall 
be freely approved by the Apostolic See, and 
inviolably observed by all members of the said 

We have already seen that it was one of the 
dreams of Charles to found at Milan a similar 
Congregation of secular priests. In 1570 Philip 
himself had longed to go to Milan, but the Pope 
would not allow him to leave Rome; now, in 
1575, Philip would not allow his favourite disciples 
to quit the Eternal City. Charles besought him 
almost with tears to give him Baronio and Tarugi, 
but the sweet and gentle Philip could be just 
as inflexible on occasions as his sterner friend. 
He wrote a piquant and intensely characteristic 
letter to Charles ; it shows so clearly the widely 
different temperaments of these two devoted 
friends that I cannot resist giving extracts 
from it. 

" It caused me intense pain," the Oratorian 
writes to the Archbishop, " to have been unable 
to wish you farewell. God alone knows how 
dearly I love you ! It grieves me to the heart 
to be compelled to refuse your request ; I cannot 
bear the idea of not giving you the priests you ask 
me for, and yet I cannot comply with your 
request without injuring our Congregation. I 
wish to Heaven it was only a question of my 
own convenience. . . . You tell me that I am 

St. Charles Borromeo 

self-indulgent in this respect, but I am certain, 
and by your leave I say it to you frankly, that you 
yourself are far more self-indulgent in such matters; 
many accuse you of it, and even of robbery ! The 
Bishops of Rimini, Vercelli, and many other 
places, say so. When you meet a capable man, you 
immediately endeavour to allure him to Milan ; 
you are a most daring and audacious robber of 
holy and learned souls, and, as the saying is, You 
despoil one altar to adorn another. Amicus 
Socrates, amicus Plato, magis arnica veritas. I beg 
of you to forgive me such plain speaking." 

But when Fathers Alessandro Fedeli and 
Pompeo Pateri, the two priests whom Philip 
finally sent to Milan, arrived in that city, Charles 
was compelled to show himself as inflexible as 
Philip had been. One of them had not brought 
with him the usual celebret ; consequently, when 
the matter was referred to him, the Archbishop 
would not give him permission to celebrate the 
Holy Sacrifice, for he invariably adhered to the 
letter as well as the spirit of the Council of Trent, 
and to have dispensed with the celebret would 
have been contrary to the letter of the decree of 
the Sacred Council. 

Before leaving Rome, the once haughty son of 
the Borromei showed that he had become in very 
truth a follower of Him who was meek and 
humble of heart, for he implored the Holy Father 
to allow him to efface from his memory, and from 
the minds of men, even his own name that 

" Tales Ambio Defensores 

historic name he had gloried in, and which he had 
looked upon as a noble and sacred heritage. He 
entreated to be allowed to sign himself simply 
Cardinal of Santa Prassede, and to use as seal, 
instead of the armorial device of his house, one 
with the figure of St. Ambrose between the 
martyrs SS. Gervasius and Protasius, with the 
motto Tales ambio defensores. 

From this date Charles always signed himself 
Cardinal di Santa Prassede. His Vicar-General, 
Fontano, who was later on appointed Bishop of 
Ferrara, asked him why he had changed his sig 
nature and his seal. 

He replied : " For a long time I wished to 
renounce the name of my family, for it is my 
opinion that Bishops after their consecration 
should for ever give up their homes, their titles, 
and their own people; but I would not do so 
without the Pope s permission." 

While in Rome it pleased our Lord to show in 
a marked way the love He felt for His chosen 
servant ; for as He sent forth His disciples to 
perform miracles, saying unto them, " Heal the 
sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out 
devils : freely have you received, freely give," so 
He has throughout the centuries given super 
natural power to the saints of His Church to 
cure the sick, to raise the dead, to manifest by 
deeds as well as words the wonderful works of 

It was Cesare Baronio who on this occasion 

St. Charles Borromeo 

was the instrument that helped to show forth the 
sanctity of the austere Cardinal, and the power 
given to him by God. 

Cesare contrived to get possession of the sandals 
worn by Charles on his visits to the churches, for 
he went barefooted save for them. In Rome, as 
but a short time previously at Monza, was a young 
girl who was possessed by Satan. Baronio suc 
ceeded in getting her brought to the Church of 
the Vallicella, and there, in the presence of St. 
Philip Neri, she was touched with the sandal. 
She immediately shrieked aloud in agony ; her 
howls and shouts were appalling, but at last the 
devil left her, and she was quite cured. 

On his way back to Milan, Charles broke his 
journey at Guastalla, in order to visit his sister 
Camilla and her husband, Cesare di Gonzaga. 
He found the Prince dangerously ill, and so 
delirious that he was incapable of receiving the 
last Sacraments. Charles caused the Blessed 
Sacrament to be exposed and prayers to be offered 
up ; he himself spent the long night begging God 
to have mercy on the dying man, and restore 
him to consciousness before the end came. God 
hearkened to the supplication of His faithful ser 
vant, for Gonzaga recovered his senses, confessed, 
received Extreme Unction and the Holy Viaticum, 
and died at peace with God and man. 

Charles remained for a short time, partly in 
order to be present at the funeral, but principally 
to comfort his sister in her overwhelming sorrow. 


" Tales Ambio Defensores " 

When all was well with his sisters and his relatives 
Charles often treated them with apparent indif 
ference, taking to heart and putting in practice 
those words of our Divine Redeemer : " If any 
man come to Me, and hate not his father, and 
mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and 
sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be 
My disciple." When they were in trouble he was 
as a ministering angel unto them, kind, self- 
sacrificing, generous. 

He had passed his favourite sister, Anna Colonna, 
without even a sign of recognition, when she, with 
her husband, Don Fabrizio, and her father-in-law, 
one of the conquerors of Lepanto, the renowned 
Prince Marc Antonio Colonna, had got out of 
their carriage in order to speak to him when he 
was on his way to the Church of St. Paul ; but 
when Camilla di Gonzaga was in sore need of 
sympathy and consolation, he gave her ungrudg 
ingly precious hours and days, though weighty 
matters necessitated his return to his diocese. 

Some days after his return to Milan, he wrote 
the following letter to his sister, Anna Colonna : 

"MILAN, March 4, 1575. 

" Last Thursday, thanks be to God, I arrived 
in Milan in the best of health, and greatly to the 
mutual gratification of pastor and of flock. I was 
detained for two days at Guastalla by the sickness 
and death of our illustrious Cesare. He gave so 
many signs of true contrition and of resignation to 

St. Charles Borromeo 

the will of God, that we hope his soul has entered 
into life everlasting. We must therefore console 
ourselves for his loss, for it is only for a time. 
God grant that he may soon enjoy the Beatific 
Vision ! The Princess is well. Don Ferrante has 
caught the fever, but slightly ; probably he will 
soon recover." 

Ferrante was the nephew of the Cardinal, the 
son and heir of the Gonzagas. 

The inevitable result was that, when Charles 
arrived in Milan, he was so overwhelmed with work 
that his health almost broke down ; but for the 
indomitable spirit that kept the frail body alive, 
he would certainly have collapsed completely, but 
the thought of the glad tidings he brought to his 
beloved flock prevented his succumbing. 

" Hope deferred undoubtedly maketh the heart 
sick ; but hope, the steadfast and certain hope, of a 
great blessing, not only maketh the heart rejoice, 
but keepeth the whole body in health." 

This hope it was that sustained Charles during 
the summer heats, and helped him to brave the in 
tense cold of the snow and frosts of the November 
and December days, until in 1576 he was able 
publicly to announce to the people that the Holy 
Father had granted for that year, the Jubilee of 
the Holy Year, to the City and Diocese of Milan, 
and also to the seven churches of Milan, the 
same indulgences granted to the seven churches 
of Rome. 

So great was his zeal and fervour that he sue- 


"Tales Ambio Defensores" 

ceeded in kindling something of his own zeal and 
fervour in the hearts of the Milanese. He arranged 
everything for the fit observance of the Jubilee 
with his usual extraordinary method. They say 
"""^nite capacity of taking pains, 
Charles Borromeo was one of 
s the world has ever seen ; for 
he showed a marvellous apti- 
.ppeared to be able to supervise, 
s of his vast diocese, but the 
vial arrangement of his house- 
year of the Jubilee of Milan 
d on the roads in order to guide 
eir way, and at the same time 
ids the Passion of Christ, and 
in the city they were lodged 
;pecially set apart for them, 
that the visits to the churches 
i foot, and in the interior of the 
women occupied different sides, 
.ting them in some places, in 
screen. Milan was on fire with 
.sm ; men and women of the 
ed in procession, attired in sack- 
and their throats, and holding 
crucifixes in their hands. They went on their 
way from the Duomo to Sant Ambrogio, from 
Santa Maria delle Grazie to San Stefano, from 
church to church, from altar to altar, singing 
hymns, reciting litanies, giving striking signs of 
sincere penance for past offences, of confident 


j ai coufiance en vous 

St. Charles Borromeo 

eur de rOSuvrede* Vocation* de F 

Juoiorul d 
N.S. Pere le Pape, approuv.p. 

dcrlt de aa propre mam : 

the will of God, that we hope his soul has entered 
into life everlasting. We must therefore console 
ourselves for his loss, for it is only for a time. 
God grant that he may soon enjoy the Beatific 
Vision ! The Princess is well. "~ 
caught the fever, but slightl) 
soon recover." 

Ferrante was the nephew c 
son and heir of the Gonzagas. 

The inevitable result was 
arrived in Milan, he was so ovei 
that his health almost broke 
indomitable spirit that kept t. 
he would certainly have collap 
the thought of the glad tidings 
beloved flock prevented his sue 

" Hope deferred undoubtedly 
sick ; but hope, the steadfast an 
great blessing, not only maketl 
but keepeth the whole body in 

This hope it was that sustain 
the summer heats, and helped h 
tense cold of the snow and frost 
and December days, until in 
publicly to announce to the people tuai me noiy 
Father had granted for that year, the Jubilee of 
the Holy Year, to the City and Diocese of Milan, 
and also to the seven churches of Milan, the 
same indulgences granted to the seven churches 
of Rome. 

So great was his zeal and fervour that he sue- 


Le, ACW.. vivantsou d^d^s, ont p. 
neuvaiueden^esfiuissantle premier, 

de chaque mois-108 messes par an. 
_ La date de ma ooutmbwtion 

Tales Ambio Defensores " 

ceeded in kindling something of his own zeal and 
fervour in the hearts of the Milanese. He arranged 
everything for the fit observance of the Jubilee 
with his usual extraordinary method. They say 
that genius is an infinite capacity of taking pains, 
and if that be true Charles Borromeo was one of 
the greatest geniuses the world has ever seen ; for 
throughout his life he showed a marvellous apti 
tude for detail, and appeared to be able to supervise, 
not only the affairs of his vast diocese, but the 
most apparently trivial arrangement of his house 
hold. During the year of the Jubilee of Milan 
crosses were erected on the roads in order to guide 
the pilgrims on their way, and at the same time 
recall to their minds the Passion of Christ, and 
when they arrived in the city they were lodged 
and fed at houses specially set apart for them. 

It was decreed that the visits to the churches 
should be made on foot, and in the interior of the 
churches men and women occupied different sides, 
a partition separating them in some places, in 
others a wooden screen. Milan was on fire with 
religious enthusiasm ; men and women of the 
highest rank walked in procession, attired in sack 
cloth, a cord round their throats, and holding 
crucifixes in their hands. They went on their 
way from the Duomo to Sant Ambrogio, from 
Santa Maria delle Grazie to San Stefano, from 
church to church, from altar to altar, singing 
hymns, reciting litanies, giving striking signs of 
sincere penance for past offences, of confident 

St. Charles Borromeo 

hope in a blessed future, and of fervent piety in 
the living present. 

" The people continue to perform the devotions 
of the Jubilee with extraordinary fervour," their 
Archbishop wrote, in the joy of his heart, to the 
Papal Nuncio in Spain ; " many walk barefooted, 
either alone or in procession ; the various colleges 
and professions form processions composed of 
their members; they carry the cross of their 
parish before them, or else that of their Order. 
We have heard rumours of the plague. . . . 
Every day thousands come from the surrounding 
country, and I have endeavoured to arrange that 
in one day they can perform all the necessary 
good works. Every day, in all the churches, but 
particularly in the Duomo, I and my priests give 
Holy Communion to thousands of people. . . . 
I have published a little book of prayers that also 
gives an account of the relics exposed in the 
different churches. . . . 

" I have provided a hospice for strangers, where 
they are lodged and fed; and not only do the 
nobles and citizens give alms abundantly, they 
also wash the feet of the poor pilgrims and serve 
them in every way." 

While the saintly ascetic thus rejoiced in the 
fervour of his flock, they in their turn looked 
with feelings of awe and reverence on their 
beloved pastor, who not only preached, ad 
ministered the Sacraments, arranged and foresaw 
everything, but also himself went barefooted 

" Tales Ambio Defensores 

through the streets, and washed the feet of the 
poor pilgrims in the hospice. 

In those days Milan was a holy city, but, alas ! 
the note of warning had been sounded. The 
plague ! Not all the prayers and penances, the 
tears of repentance, the deeds of heroic charity, 
the long fasts, the severe abstinences not all 
these could stay the hand of God. 

It was approaching, slowly, gradually; the 
awful Thing was coming nearer and nearer to the 
doomed city ; and even while the souls of the 
inhabitants were filled with celestial joy. that 
horrible Thing was waiting to seize their poor 
bodies. Even the stainless life of their saintly 
Archbishop could not avert the terrible scourge. 

Milan was doomed ! 




MILAN was en fete. The decorations of the streets 
were on a scale of extraordinary magnificence, the 
walls and balconies were hung with rich satins and 
brocades, wreaths of flowers and of plants hung 
over the gateways, and ivy was twined round the 
columns and over the doors. The bells rang out 
a joyous peal, the people cheered, as the heralds 
announced in stentorian tones that His Royal 
Highness Don John of Austria, conqueror of 
Lepanto, and half-brother of the King of Spain, 
had arrived in their city. 

The Marquis d Ayamonte, then Governor, the 
nobility, the citizens, all vied in doing honour and 
paying homage to the man whom the King 
delighted to honour, the gay, gallant, handsome 
young Prince. Even while the triumphal pro 
cession wended its way through the thronged 
streets, there was a distressed cry of " Misericordia ! 
misericordia !" At first scarcely audible, it gradu 
ally rose into a shriek; it was taken up by 
hundreds of voices, "Misericordia! misericordia! 
O God, have mercy on us, for the plague is in 
our city !" Those gay and gallant cavaliers heard 

The Plague of St. Charles 

it, and their hot blood turned to ice in their veins, 
their dauntless courage ebbed away before the 
terrible spectre of this black and sudden Death, 
and without a moment s hesitation they fled at 
headlong speed from the doomed city ! 

Thus Milan was left without a Governor, with 
out a Senate, in this her hour of direst need, 
of most unimaginable agony. But there was one 
who did not fly nay, who hastened back, the 
instant he heard the fatal news, from Lodi, where 
he had been consoling and administering the last 
Sacraments to his friend Monsignor Scarampa, 
Bishop of Lodi. He went direct to the Duomo, 
and there he prayed long and fervently ; then he 
visited the infected quarters, and endeavoured to 
encourage the people, who knelt before him, beg 
ging him to bless and pray for them. They were 
in a state of abject terror ; disorder reigned 
supreme, and Charles was the one strong man in 
that great and populous city, the only one who 
was capable of stemming the panic ; to him they 
all instinctively turned, and he was not found 

He immediately convoked a meeting at his 
palace of the few magistrates who had remained 
faithful to their trust, and with them adopted 
strenuous measures to prevent contagion, and to 
administer to those stricken by the horrible 
malady. Like an angel of charity, the austere 
ascetic, now transformed into a tender father, a 
gentle nurse, a loving friend, went day and night 

St. Charles Borromeo 

through the streets and squares of the city, into 
the infected houses, carrying with him as his only 
protection against contagion a sponge dipped in 
vinegar, but armed with the impenetrable shield 
of a boundless confidence in God and an over 
whelming love of his flock. He went about bare 
footed, carrying the big wooden crucifix that is 
now in the Duomo, the object of enthusiastic and 
fervent veneration. Thus he walked through the 
plague-stricken city, consoling, encouraging, quell 
ing tumults, settling disputes, helping by word 
and deed the maddened, panic-stricken people. 

The lazaretto outside the city walls was soon 
full. It was necessary that other accommodation 
should be found. Thatched cabins were erected 
at various places, and at a distance from the city. 
They were surrounded by large ditches filled with 
water, and only accessible through one gate. This 
was to guard against contagion, and prevent those 
infected with the malady from leaving. Every 
precaution was taken to prevent the spread of the 
fearsome Thing, and at the same time no means 
were neglected to give aid to the souls and bodies 
of the plague-stricken. 

I cannot better describe Charles during this 
appalling trial, when with such heroic courage he 
succoured his afflicted people by every means in his 
power, than by quoting Manzoni s graphic descrip 
tion in the " I Promessi Sposi " of the conduct of his 
cousin and successor under similar circumstances. 
The beautiful and realistic narrative applies with 

" The Plague of St. Charles " 

equal truth and justice to both Borromei. It runs 
as follows : 

"The Cardinal, as was to be expected, gave 
encouragement and example to all. Having seen 
many perish around him, and solicited by magis 
trates, relatives, friends, and Princes, to withdraw 
from danger, he absolutely refused, writing at the 
same time to his clergy : 

" Be ready to abandon this mortal life rather 
than the people committed to your care. Go 
forward amongst the plague-stricken as to life, as 
to a reward, even if there is only one soul to be 
won to Christ. 

" He did not neglect necessary precautions, and 
he gave instructions and regulations to his clergy to 
do likewise, but at the same time he did not fear 
in fact, was absolutely indifferent to danger when 
it was necessary to encounter it to do good. 
Without speaking of the ecclesiastics, whom he 
was constantly inspiring, commending their zeal, 
arousing the lukewarm, and inducing them to go to 
the posts where others had perished, he wished that 
those who desired to see him should always be able 
to do so without difficulty. He visited the lazar- 
ettoes to give consolation to the sick and encourage 
ment to the attendants. He traversed / the city, 
carrying relief to the poor creatures sequestrated in 
their houses, stopping at the doors and under the 
windows to listen to their lamentations and to 
offer words of hope and consolation. In a word, 
he threw himself into, and lived in the midst of, 

145 L 

St. Charles Borromeo 

the pestilence, and was astonished himself that he 
came out uninjured." 

It is a strange fact that not only did the Arch 
bishop escape contagion, but scarce any of the 
clergy and religious of both sexes who assisted 
him in his sublime task were stricken by the 
plague. The Capuchins, the Jesuits, the Virgins 
of St. Ursula, ably seconded him, and the 
secular clergy, encouraged and fortified by his 
words and example, generously devoted their lives 
to the service of God in the person of His suffer 
ing members ; but amongst all the noble and 
heroic souls who co-operated with Charles, those 
who most deserve our admiration and reverence 
were undoubtedly the physicians. 

Without any arriere-pensee, without hope of glory 
or distinction either in this world or the next, these 
noble and devoted medical men went daily into the 
very jaws of death, into the mouth of hell. They 
had neither the supernatural courage of the con 
fessor or martyr to inspire them, nor the intrepid 
daring and desire of deathless fame that causes 
the soldier to "seek the bubble reputation even 
at the cannon s mouth," to encourage them. They 
had nothing to help them but the approval of 
their consciences, the knowledge of duty fulfilled. 
They came from many countries, from Rome, 
from France, from the neighbouring States, these 
heroic healers of the body ; and they were willing 
.to sacrifice their lives ungrudgingly in the cause 
of humanity without hope of favour or reward. 

" The Plague of St. Charles " 

Notwithstanding the precautions adopted, and 
notwithstanding the supplications of the saintly 
ascetic, who at that moment was the virtual 
Governor of Milan although he caused prayers 
to be unceasingly offered up, and he and his 
priests never for an instant relaxed in these con 
tinuous devotions, yet the ghastly spectre still 
walked abroad, the dread pestilence still ravaged 
the hapless city. 

" Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo !" 
cries Charles Borromeo from the pulpit of Sant 
Ambrogio, as with streaming eyes and burning 
words he addresses the shuddering people, and 
they answer as with one voice in accents of 
heartrending despair : " Dio, Dio nostro, miseri- 
cordia !" 

Then Charles speaks to them of the terrible 
effects of the Divine wrath ; he implores them 
thoroughly to examine their consciences, to do 
penance for their sins, and with humble prayer 
and sincere promises of amendment to entreat 
their heavenly Father to have mercy upon them. 
The people listen, and their hearts are stirred ; 
they press round the pulpit, forgetful of the 
danger of coming near each other ; they gather 
round him. They kiss his bare and bleeding feet 
when he descends from the pulpit ; for as he 
walked in the procession from the Duomo to Sant 
Ambrogio, a nail had pierced his naked foot, and 
the blood was flowing from it copiously. Many 
dip their handkerchiefs in this red and holy 

St. Charles Borromeo 

stream ; but Charles pays no heed to the physical 
pain and exhaustion his wound causes him. With 
his deep eyes fixed in loving confidence on the 
crucifix he carries, he passes on his way. 

As we see in imagination his bowed and wasted 
form passing through the streets, the cross held 
aloft, the penitent people following him with prayers 
and lamentations, we realize why it was that the 
dread visitation of 1576-77 was then and has ever 
since been called "The Plague of St. Charles." 
His was the leading figure, his the ruling spirit, 
and, in the words of Manzoni : " So powerful is 
Charity ! The plague that desolated the Milanese 
in 1576-77 is still called The Plague of San Carlo. 
Among the various and awful recollections of a 
general calamity, she could cause the personality 
of one individual to predominate. Why ? Because 
Charity had inspired him with feelings and actions 
more memorable than even the evils themselves ; 
she could set him up in the minds of men as a 
symbol of all these events, because in all she had 
urged him onward, and held him up to view as 
guide and helper, example and voluntary victim, 
and has framed for him as it were an emblematical 
device out of a public calamity, naming it after 
him, as though it were a glorious conquest or a 
wonderful discovery." 



" CHARITY never falleth away : whether prophecies 
shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or 
knowledge shall be destroyed. . . . And now 
there remain faith, hope, charity, these three ; and 
the greater of these is charity " (i Cor. xiii. 13). 

" Bring out your dead ! Bring out your sick !" 
The mournful cry echoes through the streets of 
the erstwhile populous and pleasure-loving city. 
The apparitori appear, preceding the carts on 
which lie the dying and the dead ; and as they 
walk they ring a bell to warn people of the 
approach of the gloomy cortege, and shout their 
dismal order : " Bring out your sick ! Bring out 
your dead !" 

Then the monatti follow ; they take the corpses 
from the houses, placing them on the carts on 
which they are to be carried to the cemetery. 
They also remove the sick; and these they also 
place in carts, on which they will be conveyed 
to the lazarettoes. 

The inhabitants of the closed houses look on 
in mournful silence while their dear ones, living 

St. Charles Borromeo 

and dead, are borne away from them. It is for 
bidden to those in health to go in or out of the 
houses or walk in the streets ; only when stricken 
by the pestilence can they be taken away. Even 
as the miserable creatures follow with despairing 
eyes the sad procession of the dying and the dead, 
another bell rings out. They hear the clear, 
sonorous peal from the great campanile of the 
Duomo, and at its sound their dull eyes brighten 
and their haggard faces flush, for it sounds a 
message of hope and of mercy. 

At the end of each street is an altar, and at 
the tolling of the bell the Archbishop and his 
priests come down the deserted streets and offer 
up the Holy Sacrifice at these altars. Then they 
go round and hear confessions, the penitents 
leaning out of the windows. In order to hear 
those in the upper stories, the priests make use 
of a high stool or ladder, mounting on it ; this 
they also do when giving Holy Communion. 

Seven times during the day and seven times 
during the night prayers are offered up, litanies 
are sung, psalms chanted. 

" More things are wrought by prayer 
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice 
Rise like a fountain for me night and day." 

The voices of the citizens of Milan rose in 

perpetual prayer and adoration, and their devoted 

Archbishop and his clergy went their ceaseless 

rounds, administering the Sacraments and bring- 


" The Greater of These " 

ing help, not only to agonized souls, but to starving 
bodies. Charles was invariably followed by two 
men on horseback carrying provisions, and he 
himself always contrived to have money to give 
when required. 

How he managed to do so Heaven only knows, 
for he had long ago exhausted all apparently 
available means ; he had neither money, goods, 
nor chattels ; he had sold all, and yet, somehow, 
some charitable individual always turned up at 
the moment when his purse and larder were 
empty, and supplied him with enough to go on 
with until some other kind-hearted and liberal 
friend came forward with his or her donation. 

Historians say that during the plague from 
sixty to seventy thousand poor people were fed 
every day. Charles not only gave them their 
meals, he also found work for the able-bodied ; 
he clothed the naked, tearing down, when he had 
nothing else left, the rich tapestries that covered 
the walls of the archiepiscopal palace and getting 
them fashioned into garments. 

During this strenuous time of overstrain and 
trouble, he followed out literally the Gospel 
precept, for he gave food to the hungry, drink 
to the thirsty; he clothed the naked, he visited 
the sick, and he buried the dead. 

Having discovered that many had never received 
the Sacrament of Confirmation, he vested pontifi- 
cally and went through the streets administering 
the Sacrament to the citizens at their own doors 

St. Charles Borromeo 

and windows. Then, hearing that within the 
lazarettoes there were some unfortunate creatures 
unconfirmed, he penetrated into these dread regions 
beyond the city gates. The plague-stricken fell 
at his feet blessing him as he passed along, and 
one man to whom he administered Confirmation 
fell dead at the very moment he received the 
Sacrament. Charles wrote to his friend, the 
Bishop of Rimini, during the dreadful visitation : 

" In the midst of the cruel, not to say horrible, 
spectacle of the dreadful and daily increasing 
pestilence, nothing gives me so much consolation 
as the celebration of these saturnalia of religion 
if I may be permitted to speak thus of these pious 
exercises. The fervour and constancy of the 
people that urges them to offer up ardent and 
voluntary prayers day and night is such that, if you 
were here, you would be transported with joy, and 
you would have an unshaken confidence I will 
not say that they will all recover bodily health 
but I believe that their souls will be saved." 

To the prayers of his flock Charles added his 
own supreme abnegation and devotion. He was 
to be seen everywhere day and night, presiding 
at the public prayers, offering the Holy Sacrifice, 
administering the Sacraments, rescuing, aiding 
with head and hand. On one occasion he saw 
a monk stretched on a straw bed on the roadside 
and shivering with cold. Charles took off his 
own cloak, wrapped it round the poor man, and 
remained praying beside him in the bitter wind, 

" The Greater of These " 

until the soul passed peacefully away. He often 
rescued little children whom he found lying beside 
their dead mothers, carrying them in his arms 
until he could find some kind women to take 
charge of the little ones. The Virgins of St. Ursula 
took care of many of these poor forsaken babies. 
On one occasion, however, Charles found a newly- 
born infant covered with plague-spots. He at 
once baptized her, but he felt he could not, in 
justice to others, give her into anyone s charge, so 
he procured a goat and fed her with its milk ; 
then, when she had recovered, he provided shelter 
for her and other infants outside the city walls, 
getting a flock of goats, so that the little ones were 
thus supplied with food and shelter. The infant 
thus miraculously preserved grew to womanhood, 
married a wealthy man called Philip Nava, and 
took great pleasure in frequently relating the 
above details. 

In a somewhat similar case, the rescued baby 
was at the point of death, but when Charles gave 
her his benediction she was restored to health. 
This child he confided to the Virgins of St. 

On October 15, 1556, Charles consecrated the 
city to the glorious soldier-martyr, St. Sebastian. 
The Church venerates him in a special manner as 
the patron of the plague-stricken. The Milanese 
have always cherished a particular devotion to 
him, and look upon him as one of their greatest 
protectors, because his mother was a native of 

St. Charles Borromeo 

their city. Therefore, at the suggestion of Charles, 
the people gladly made a solemn vow to rebuild 
the Church of San Sebastiano it was then in 
ruins to found a perpetual daily Mass in his 
honour, and to fast every year on the vigil of his 
feast. They gave a beautiful silver reliquary, in 
which his relics were enclosed, and went with it 
in procession to his church, promising to do so 
for ten years on the anniversary, and to do so for 
ever on his festival. 

Many other processions took place, particularly 
of the Holy Nail. This sacred relic of our Divine 
Lord s Passion was carried by the Archbishop from 
church to church. They were wonderful spec 
tacles, showing the fervent zeal of the pastor and 
the ardent piety of his people. It is a strange 
fact that during their progress not a single indi 
vidual contracted the pestilence. 

But the Governor, who had at last returned 
to his post, ordered that these solemn and holy 
processions should cease, saying they but helped 
to spread contagion. He helped the people, how 
ever, in another way, for he relieved the citizens 
from the tax of 40,000 scudi, a tax they had been 
previously obliged to pay to the Council of the 

Early in 1577 the plague showed signs of 
abating, and Charles then published the Jubilee 
in Milan and in the villages of the surrounding 
country that had been attacked by the pestilence. 
He also compiled a small book, a memorial* 

" The Greater of These " 

addressed particularly to his suffragans, and in 
which he described the evils with which he had to 
contend. He was so worn out from the terrible 
strain that while dictating to his secretary he 
often dozed off, but, quickly waking up, he would 
continue taking up the thread of his discourse 
exactly where he had left off. 

The spring brought hope and consolation, and 
the spirits of the people rose even as the earth put 
forth her blossoms. The worst was over. The 
long battle against disease and death was fought 
and won. Faith, hope and charity had triumphed. 
Milan was herself again yet, no, not quite her old 
worldly, pleasure-loving self. She was regenerated, 
purified ; and when on May 3, 1577, the Feast of 
the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Charles 
Borromeo carried the Holy Nail in solemn pro 
cession from the Duomo to San Sepolcro, the 
Governor, the magistrates, and all the citizens, 
followed, praying devoutly, and many even shed 
tears. On the return to the Duomo, Charles 
exposed the Holy Nail during the Quarant Ore. 
When all was over and the sacred relic was 
restored to its place, Charles followed it with 
loving eyes as it was raised on high, and, carried 
away by the fire of Divine love that consumed his 
soul, he exclaimed : " Non dimittam te nisi 
benedisceris mihi." 



" Do not think that I came to send peace upon 
earth ; I came not to send peace, but the sword. 
. . . And a man s enemies shall be they of his own 
household " (Matt. x. 34, 36). 

It was apparently the fate of the ascetic Arch 
bishop of Milan, of the man who was Cardinal of 
Santa Prassede the Church of Peace ever to live 
in the midst of storm and stress, never to be able to 
sheath the sword, but to have until his dying day 
to fight the good fight in defence of the liberties 
of Holy Church. The plague had ceased to 
ravage the fair city of Milan and the fertile plains 
of Lombardy ; the danger was past, so the 
Governor recovered from his panic, and bade 
defiance to the saviour of the country that he 
himself had abandoned in her hour of trouble. 

The Marquis d Ayamonte was a Spaniard and a 
grandee of Spain, and he possessed in a marked 
degree the worst characteristics of a Spaniard and 
a grandee. 

He was arrogant, obstinate, overbearing, and 
ignorant in a superlative degree, and he cherished 

"Not Peace, but the Sword" 

an insane resentment against Charles, not only 
because the Archbishop had mildly reproved him 
for deserting his post, but also, and even more, 
because Charles had given him an example of 
heroic self-forgetfulness in succouring the afflicted 
citizens and nobly living mid the dying and the 

People of the type of d Ayamonte never forgive 
sublime generosity and self-sacrifice either in their 
friends or foes, for it is a reflection on their own 
selfish cowardice. 

Yet even before the terrible visitation, a note of 
discord had been struck between the two rulers of 
Milan. D Ayamonte had come prepared to dis 
like Charles Borromeo, for he knew that the 
Archbishop had excommunicated and caused the 
removal of the former Governor. Their first 
meeting was not amiable. Charles describes it 
with a touch of good-humoured sarcasm in a 
letter to Monsignor Castelli : 

" After the departure of Don Luis de Requesens 
for Flanders, I considered it my duty to pay my 
respects to the new Governor, the Marquis 
d Ayamonte. I went to see him to-day, fully 
resolved not to speak about past controversies, 
but he himself started the subject, and insisted on 
continuing it. He received me in his ante 
chamber, and we remained there conversing in 
the midst of a crowd of people. I do not know 
whether he acted thus through pride, or whether 
Spanish etiquette decrees that on a first visit one 

St. Charles Borromeo 

should be received in this manner, or perhaps he 
feared I intended asking a favour." 

This interview showed plainly that the new 
Governor was determined to treat the man he 
looked upon as a rival in a very cavalier, not to 
say impudent, fashion. He was unreasonably 
jealous of the influence the saintly Archbishop 
possessed over the citizens of Milan, and his 
jealousy increased a hundredfold when, during 
and after the plague, the people added love and 
admiration to their confidence. 

The Marquis d Ayamonte, meeting Charles one 
day, could not refrain from giving way to a 
paroxysm of ungovernable anger, saying furiously : 
"It is unbearable, the way the people here love 
you ; why, they almost worship you. And I, who 
am the Minister of the most powerful monarch 
they barely tolerate me." 

With curious yet natural inconsistency, d Aya 
monte later on made it a subject of one of his 
numerous complaints to the Holy See, that the 
Milanese detested their Cardinal Archbishop, and 
that consequently the Pope ought to remove him 
from a diocese where his presence was obnoxious 
to his flock. 

This was not the only untrue and absurd state 
ment made by the Governor ; his chief accusations 
to the Sovereign Pontiff and to the Most Catholic 
King against the Archbishop were the follow 
ing : During the plague Cardinal Borromeo had 
exempted his clergy from conforming to the 


" Not Peace, but the Sword " 

regulations made by the magistrates ; he had 
made his own rules anent the quarantine ; he sent 
his priests about with certificates of health signed 
only by himself or his vicars. He had forbidden 
sports, games, balls, and profane amusements, to 
be held on Sunday and days of obligation, decree 
ing that they should be devoted to prayer and good 
works. He had also made certain sins reserved 
cases, and he had forbidden meat to be eaten 
on the first Sunday in Lent, making it a day of 
abstinence. He had prohibited people from taking 
a short-cut through the churches, and walled up 
the doors to prevent them from continuing to 
do so, and he had caused partitions to be erected 
between the men and the women. Then he had 
instituted a new holiday of obligation, proclaiming 
that the feast of SS. Gervasius and Protasius should 
be observed as such. 

These were the heinous offences of which 
Charles Borromeo was accused. A special envoy 
and deputies were sent to Rome and to Madrid, a 
memorial was signed by the Governor and his 
friends, and they did all in their power to blacken 
the reputation of the Cardinal. 

He, calm, dignified and resolute, continued to 
exercise ecclesiastical authority and to uphold the 
rights of Holy Church. In fact, he extended his 
jurisdiction to the utmost limits, and seized and 
imprisoned culprits who had offended against the 
canon law. The Governor was furious ; he swore, 
he threatened, all in vain ; Charles was not to be 

St. Charles Borromeo 

browbeaten, and pursued the even tenor of his 
way, undisturbed and undismayed by the menaces 
of his remorseless foe. 

In the midst of this desperate struggle for the 
supremacy between the civil and religious authori 
ties, the Cardinal of Santa Prassede was able to 
enjoy a brief period of peace and rest. Peace and 
rest for his mind, for he only increased his bodily 
labours by the undertaking, which, though physic 
ally fatiguing, refreshed and reinvigorated him 
mentally. This was a pilgrimage made on foot, 
staff in hand, to the Holy Winding-Sheet of Our 
Blessed Lord. 



CHARLES BORROMEO was in the fullest meaning of 
the word Catholic that is to say, universal in his 
love and veneration for the many and numerous 
devotions approved of by Holy Church. Yet even 
as the tenderest and most loving of parents will 
often cherish a special affection for one child, so 
our saint had a quite special devotion to the Holy 
Eucharist, the Sacred Passion of Christ, and the 
Mother of God. 

When he took possession of the See of Milan, he 
found to his horror and dismay that the Blessed 
Sacrament was often treated with scant ceremony, 
frequently with actual disrespect, not only in 
remote parishes, but in the towns of the Milanese 
and even in the great City of the Plains. 

To remedy this he founded a confraternity in 
honour of the Blessed Sacrament. He commenced 
the regulations which he laid down for their 
observance thus : " The greatness of the love 
shown us by our Divine Lord in remaining with 
us for ever in the Blessed Sacrament should com 
pel us to show the greatness of our love for Him 
by honouring and reverencing Him always and in 
161 M 

St. Charles Borromeo 

every possible way in this august Sacrament, 
making it a sacred duty to do so." 

At Milan the members of this confraternity were 
obliged to walk in the processions of the Blessed 
Sacrament on Sundays and holidays. 

The devotion Charles felt towards the Passion 
of our Saviour was no less fervent and intense. 
He venerated with great affection all the relics 
connected with it. In his Cardinal s church of 
Santa Prassede the Sacred Column was preserved. 
At Milan the Holy Nail was the object of venera 
tion to all, but particularly to the Archbishop. At 
Chambery the Holy Winding-Sheet was treasured 
by the Princes of the House of Savoy as their 
dearest possession, and it was to venerate this holy 
relic that Charles set out from Milan on October 6, 
1578. He was accompanied by Father Adorno, S.J., 
and by eleven members of his household. 

Father Adorno, S.J., was to act as spiritual 
director to the pilgrims. He has given a detailed 
and interesting account of the journey Lin his 
" Relazione del Viaggio di San Carlo Borromeo a 
Torino per visitare la Sacra Sindone." It is, how 
ever, too long to give here verbatim ; we can only 
select a few of the principal episodes. When 
Philibert Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, heard of the 
intention of the Archbishop of Milan to go on a 
pilgrimage to the shrine where the Holy Wind 
ing-Sheet was preserved, he immediately ordered 
the removal of the priceless relic from Chambe ry 
to Turin, in order to spare Charles the long 

The Holy Winding-Sheet 

journey across the Alps. He invited our saint to 
stay with him at his palace. Charles accepted, 
and, after a physically-fatiguing yet soul-inspiriting 
journey of four days, arrived at the capital of 
Piedmont, where he was right royally welcomed. 
Bells were rung, salvos of artillery were fired, the 
Prince, the nobles, and citizens, went forth to meet 
the humble pilgrims, greeting them with enthu 
siasm and veneration. 

Charles had divested himself of all the insignia of 
his high rank when passing under the Porta Vercelli 
at Milan, so there was nothing about him to dis 
tinguish him from his companions, but Princes and 
people at once recognized him. All saw at a 
glance that the fragile, emaciated man, with the 
slightly round shoulders, the worn face, in which 
the deep-set eyes burned with the light that is not 
of earth, but of heaven, was the leader, the hero, 
and the saint. 

On the Friday following Charles offered up the 
Holy Sacrifice in the Capella della Sacra Sin- 
done in the Duomo, and gave Holy Communion 
to several persons, and then the Holy Winding- 
Sheet was exposed to the veneration of the 

" I must candidly acknowledge," writes Father 
Adorno, S.J., " that I was so overcome at the first 
sight of this precious relic that words failed me. 
The Cardinal had asked me to preach, but I could 
not utter a syllable ; sobs choked my voice, and 
tears streamed down my face. I was, as it were, 

St. Charles Borromeo 

paralyzed by the strength of my feelings. I had 
seen a picture of the Holy Winding-Sheet but 
what is a picture compared to the living reality ? 
What tears were shed ! what fervent prayers were 
offered up ! Many had the happiness of kissing 
the precious blood that had flowed from the heart 
and the feet of our Lord. They did so with inex 
pressible tenderness and love. . . . 

" Later on the Holy Winding-Sheet was carried 
in procession from the Duomo to the Piazza 
Castello, in the very centre of the city, where, on 
a raised altar, it was exposed to the veneration 
of the faithful. The Cardinal and the Bishops 
showed it to the people, spreading it out before 
their eyes ; then, in the midst of exclamations of 
piety and of joy, the blessed relic was carried back 
into the capella. The Quarant Ore commenced, 
and day and night members of confraternities, 
students, all classes, came in turn to pray and to 
sing canticles of praise. Pilgrims came in crowds 
from the surrounding country. . . . 

" Cardinal Borromeo preached twice. It was 
remarked that every time the Duke looked at the 
Holy Winding-Sheet he shed tears. Several 
heretics having come from Lucerne to see the 
Cardinal, the Duke asked that the devotions 
should continue for another day, so that they 
might have a chance of hearing the Cardinal, and 
might be enlightened by his discourse and that of 
the Bishops. 

" The following day the Duke dined with the 

The Holy Winding-Sheet 

Cardinal, and after the repast they spent a couple of 
hours together conversing on spiritual subjects. . . . 
St. Charles had resolved to start that afternoon, 
The Duke and his son knelt before him, saying 
they would not rise until he had given his blessing 
to them and to their descendants. Charles then 
gave them his blessing, and Philibert Emmanuel, 
turning to his son Charles Emmanuel, said, first in 
French and then in Italian, so that the Cardinal 
might understand : " My son, look upon the 
Cardinal as your father ; obey and honour him as 
though you were indeed his son, and beg him to 
accept you as his son!" Then, turning to the 
Cardinal, he cried : " I beg you to look upon him 
as a son !" 

This young Prince, Charles Emmanuel, was 
afterwards to be the friend and Sovereign of 
St. Francis de Sales. 

At this time, 1578, the Gentle Saint was a boy 
of eleven, studying at the College of La Roche 
in Savoy. We wonder, did he then hear of the 
pilgrimage made by Charles Borromeo the Arch 
bishop he afterwards venerated and imitated to 
that precious and priceless relic, kneeling before 
which his mother, Madame de Boissy, had con 
secrated him even before his birth to the service 
of God. 

On their return journey, the Cardinal and his 
companions stopped en route at Varallo, where he 
had spent some days in 1571. 

This blessed spot was very dear to him. More 


St. Charles Borromeo 

than a hundred years previously, on a hill over 
looking the town, a Franciscan priest, the vener 
able Bernardino Caima, on his return from 
Jerusalem, had built a convent of his Order and a 
beautiful church, in which he had placed a repre 
sentation of the Holy Sepulchre. 

At certain distances from the church there were 
several little chapels, each one dedicated to one of 
the principal mysteries in the life of our Lord ; 
there were about forty of these wayside sanctuaries. 

On October 21, 1578, our saint once more came 
to this sacred place, arriving about three in 
the afternoon. Father Adorno, S.J., gives a 
graphic description of this second visit. 

" From the town," he writes, " we went on foot 
at once to the mountain, in order to visit the 
sacred mysteries without delay. One of us gave 
the points of meditation relative to each mystery, 
and we dwelt on them for a longer or shorter 
time, according to the importance of the mystery. 
We stayed there until eight o clock at night, when 
we went off to get something to eat. Up to that 
hour we had eaten absolutely nothing all day. 
This late meal consisted of bread and wine ; as 
for the Cardinal, he drank water instead of wine. 
He then returned to the holy mountain accom 
panied by one of us, remaining there until three 
in the morning. This individual felt the intense 
cold so much that they returned in order 
that he might be able to warm himself. They 
only slept for two hours on chairs. Then they 


The Holy Winding-Sheet 

gave themselves to prayer and meditation until it 
was time to celebrate Holy Mass. 

" I have related all this," Father Adorno, S.J., 
continues, " that you may know how God helps 
His servant in the midst of the most fatiguing work. 
He is always remarkably well, although he invari 
ably goes to bed very late, and rises at four every 
morning. He eats nothing from the hour of Matins 
until three o clock in the afternoon of the follow 
ing day, even though he has travelled for hours 
without a rest, either on foot or on horseback." 

Arrived at Milan and warmly welcomed by his 
flock, he heard that his pilgrimage had caused a 
sensation was, in fact, a nine days wonder. Some 
admired, some censured him, shaking their heads 
and saying that it was unfitting the dignity of a 
Prince of the Church to go on foot, and humbly 
clad, through the country. 

Gregory XIII. agreed with these carpers, 
remarking that he could not understand why 
Cardinal Borromeo had gone on foot to Turin. 
When Charles heard of these various and varying 
criticisms, he smiled slightly and was quite undis 
turbed. He wrote to his agent in Rome, Mon- 
signor Speciano, who had acquainted him with 
the remarks made by the Pope and others : 

"As to what you tell me people say about my 
journey to Turin, I wish you to understand that on 
such occasions the principal thing is to do what 
one considers right, and to be perfectly indifferent 
to the world s opinions." 




IN 1558 Charles Borromeo wrote to Monsignor 
Speciano : "I have finally decided to commence, 
with God s help, the work I have so long meditated, 
namely, founding an Order of clerics who are 
already priests, under the title of the Oblates of 
St. Ambrose. I will give them a house near the 
Church of San Sepolcro. They will live in com 
munity, following the rules that I or my successors 
will lay down for their guidance. They will not 
be allowed to accept a benefice outside their 
diocese. Their principal object will be to devote 
their lives to the service of the Ambrosian Rite, 
and after a sufficient probation they will make a 
vow to do so. They will preach, hear confessions, 
give the Bread of Life to the faithful, and admin 
ister the Sacraments wherever they are sent. 
They will direct schools, colleges, and pious con 
fraternities. In brief, they will do their utmost to 
promote the greater glory of God. . . . 

" I have already found several priests and laymen 
who are desirous of embracing this state of life ; 
some are willing to take perpetual vows, others 
will only agree to make them for my lifetime." 

The Oblates of St. Ambrose 

Charles then asks Monsignor Speciano to obtain 
for him from the Pope various privileges and 
indulgences for his new Order, and also to be 
allowed to use certain sums for it that he had 
formerly given to other good works. He entreats 
his agent not to lose time, as he is desirous to 
start this congregation before April 16, when the 
meeting of his diocesan synod would take place. 

" If I have the Papal sanction, I shall be at 
liberty to establish by degrees the customs and 
regulations best suited to the congregation." 
Then he adds: "Tell Messer Filippo to have 
ready to send me a number of his priests ; they 
will serve as an auxiliary force to our army. At 
any rate, get him to promise to treat with me on 
the subject." 

Charles had previously consulted St. Philip 
Neri, but they did not quite agree. They were 
certainly both of opinion that a congregation of 
secular priests devoting their lives to their own 
sanctification and the salvation of souls would 
be an inestimable advantage anywhere, but they 
differed about details. Charles as a prelate sought 
principally for assistance in the government of 
his diocese ; Philip as a simple priest desired only 
to induce other priests to lead a life of perfection, 
and aid the faithful more by their good example 
than by visiting the diocese, examining the clergy, 
and such-like work : for Charles wished the 
Oblates to be his ministers, and help him to bear 
the burden of his vast diocese. 

St. Charles Borromeo 

" I see that the ideas of the Oratorians are 
different from mine," Charles wrote to Monsignor 
Speciano ; " they want their congregation to de 
pend on themselves only, and I want everything 
to depend on me ; it is my object to have a body 
of men ready to obey me implicitly." 

Their name " Oblati " expresses the spirit of 
their Order ; theirs was to be a willing oblation, 
and, as we shall see, it was decided that their 
only vow was one of obedience to their Bishop. 

Charles, however, was very anxious to get 
Philip s opinion. The ascetic and reforming 
Cardinal did not feel that confidence in his own 
judgment on this important matter that one would 
have expected. 

He, who was generally so decided, so inflexible, 
so autocratic nay, almost despotic hesitated, 
asked the advice of several persons, and at last, 
on his visit to Rome in 1579, entreated Philip to 
read over the rules carefully, and suggest any 
alterations he pleased. Philip first refused ; then, 
when Charles continued to implore him almost 
with tears, he finally consented. He carefully 
read the Rule of the Oblates, and then said to the 
Archbishop that he considered it would not be 
expedient for the Oblates to take a vow of poverty. 

The two friends discussed the question, neither 
would give in ; at last Philip said, with his charm 
ing smile : " You asked me to go for a drive with 
you. Agreed, on condition that I give the coach 
man his orders." 


The Oblates of St. Ambrose 

" As you please, Father Philip," replied Charles, 
who knew the Oratorian s little ways, and guessed 
that this request meant something of importance. 
"Then," said St. Philip genially and with 
another sunny smile, "we will drive to the Con 
vent of the Capuchins in the Piazza Barberini, 
and we will consult Brother Felix." 

Charles was aghast, and was even more stupefied 
when he saw " Brother Felix," who was only a 
poor lay-brother, apparently both ignorant and 
stupid, for he could not even read. Was it a jest 
on the part of the sportive Philip ? A two-edged 
jest, probably intended to give a lesson in humility 
to the illustrious Cardinal. Philip was fond of 
giving such spiritual alms to his friends and 

On one occasion, when Charles s sister, Anna 
Colonna, met her director in the Street of the 
Apostles, on her way to the Colonna Palace, she 
knelt down and asked his blessing. He gave it to 
her, but while doing so managed to loosen her 
hair so that it fell over her shoulders, and every 
one gazed at her in astonishment. 

Charles knew of this incident, and when he 
saw the heavy, ungainly lay-brother who was 
asked to revise his Rule, he must have wondered 
if Philip meant to divert himself at his expense. 
Anna had taken her mortifications in good part, 
receiving it with sweet humility ; Charles was not 
to be outdone by his sister, so he listened quietly 
to the discussion between Father Philip and 

St. Charles Borromeo 

Brother Felix : for the humble lay-brother had 
first refused to give an opinion on the matter, 
alleging that he could not even read the document ; 
but Philip finally ordered him in virtue of holy 
obedience to have it read to him, to meditate on 
it, and to tell them if he disapproved of anything 
in it. 

Brother Felix took the manuscript, opened it, 
and without a moment s hesitation, placing his 
finger on the rule ordaining the poverty, said with 
decision: "This must be effaced!" Then with a 
charming smile he handed the document to the 
Cardinal, refusing to say another word on the 

Charles believed that it was the voice of the 
Holy Ghost speaking to him through the mouth 
of a rude, ignorant, but saintly and humble 

He accordingly struck out the words binding 
the Oblates to poverty, and contented himself 
with recommending them to practise it. 

Charles afterwards learned that the rough 
Capuchin was really a great saint, hiding heavenly 
wisdom and marvellous sanctity beneath a lowly 
and unprepossessing exterior. 

Brother Felix was a native of Cantalice, who 
spent his life up to his thirty-sixth year as a 
labourer in the fields. He then became a labourer 
in the Lord s vineyard, becoming a Capuchin friar. 
He was one of those holy men who throughout 
their lives give signal proofs of the " foolishness 

The Oblates of St. Ambrose 

of the Cross," seeming to the eyes of ordinary men 
somewhat eccentric. But when he died all 
Rome mourned for him ; Father Bordini wrote 
as follows about him : 

" Brother Felix the Capuchin is dead, and 
everyone grieves for him. They kept him three 
days unburied, and so great was the crowd, and 
so fervent their devotion, that they left him 
without habit or beard. . . . Nothing is talked 
about in Rome but Brother Felix, a man who 
was so lowly that he was almost despised during 
his life." 

The humble lay-brother is now venerated by us 
as St. Felix of Cantalice. 

Some time previously, in August, 1578, on the 
feast of St. Simplician, Charles had practically 
founded the Congregation of the Oblates. He 
placed them under the protection of our Lady 
and of St. Ambrose, and they were styled the 
Oblates of St. Ambrose; but the Order is now 
called by his own name, and his sons all over the 
world bear the name of their saintly founder. 

Many and various were the confraternities, 
congregations, seminaries, colleges, and Orders, 
founded by the reforming Cardinal, but the one 
he loved best was undoubtedly the Congregation 
of the Oblates. He loved and cherished it with 
the love of predilection, and his happiest hours 
were spent among his sons in the house near the 
old Church of San Sepolcro, close to where is 
now the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. 

St. Charles Borromeo 

Here he held those famous reunions that must 
have in a way reminded him and his friends of the 
Vatican Nights, though these gatherings were 
devoted exclusively to discourses on sacred sub 
jects, and to prayer interspersed with music. For 
Charles loved sweet harmonies as dearly as in the 
old days, when he had employed Palestrina to 
reform Church music. He adopted the stately 
Gregorian psalmody altogether in the churches, 
but in these familiar reunions he probably allowed 
his sons to indulge in brighter and lighter 
melodies, their voices rising in popular canzoni 
and hymns, or in part songs." There is an 
exquisite little motet by Palestrina for three voices 
that doubtless they often sang : 

" Gesu, sommo conforto, 
Tu l mio beato porto 

E santo Redentore ; 
O gran bonta ! Dolce pieta ! 
Felice quel che teco unito sta !" 

While thus giving needful refreshment to the 
souls of the Oblates, their founder was equally 
careful of their bodily health, personally super 
vising all arrangements for their comfort. When 
they were ill, he was unwearying in his care and 
devotion, nursing them himself, procuring luxuries, 
consoling and praying for them ; and when Father 
Stoppani was dying, his loving Father importuned 
Heaven so untiringly and so strenuously that, at 
his intercession, our Lord restored the patient to 


The Oblates of St. Ambrose 

Charles was asked why he had prayed so 
ardently for a man who was not of much impor 
tance. The Archbishop replied simply: "The 
life of a good priest is of inestimable value and of 
the greatest importance." 

The Order increased daily ; several laymen were 
affiliated to it ; Charles obtained the approbation 
of the Holy See, and Gregory endowed it with 
many privileges and indulgences. 



THE struggle between ecclesiastical and civil 
power still went on at Milan, the Governor 
endeavouring in every way to thwart and annoy 
the Archbishop, particularly in the matter of 
games and amusements, insisting in defiance of 
the Cardinal s prohibition on holding them on 
Sundays and holidays at the hours of Divine 
service, and actually in the squares in front of 
the Duomo and other churches. Matters were at 
such a pass that Charles decided to set out for 
Rome in order to submit the questions in dispute 
to the Pope. 

He went by way of Brescia to visit his suffragan 
Bishop, Dominico Bollani, who was dangerously 
ill. Charles was with him during his last 
moments, and also attended his funeral, cele 
brating pontifically in the cathedral on August 15, 

He then went on to Mantua, and from there to 
Guastalla, where he stayed with his sister, Camilla 
di Gonzaga. 

Spending a few days en route at the sanctuaries 
of Camaldoli, Monte Averno, and Loreto, he 

The Reforming Cardinal 

reached Rome on September 13, 1579. There 
he was right royally welcomed, the people coming 
out in crowds to meet him, kneeling before him, 
entreating him to bless them, kissing his garments, 
and showing him the most convincing marks of 
veneration and affection. 

Gregory XIII., who was in villegiatura at Fras- 
cati, at once sent for the Cardinal, received him 
with open arms, and showed him the greatest 
respect, even deference, assisted at his Mass, and 
received Holy Communion from his hands. 

They then conversed on the matters in dispute. 
The Pope was convinced that Charles was in the 
right, and gave his sanction to everything. He 
approved all that had been done by the Cardinal at 
the fourth and fifth Provincial Councils held by him. 

When the Governor s envoys arrived in Rome, 
they were greeted with very sarcastic remarks, 
and were jeered at by the populace,- who nick 
named them Ambasciatori del Carnovale. 

Before starting on his return journey north 
wards, Charles had a long and momentous inter 
view with Gregory, in which they once more 
completely thrashed out the disputed points and 
the numberless complaints and accusations of the 
Governor, and the Pope again gave the sanction 
of the Holy See to all the decrees of the Cardinal. 

" What am I to do if, when I arrive in Milan, 
there are more disputes?" Charles asked. " Shall 
I wait until you tell me what to do, or act in 
dependently ?" 

177 N 

St. Charles Borromeo 

" If they attack the rights or the customs of 
your Church, defend them strenuously," answered 
Gregory. " Do not yield an inch, even in trivial 
matters, and do what you please ; it is not neces 
sary for you to consult the Holy See." 

Charles left Rome on January 20, 1580 ; he 
visited Florence, where he was warmly greeted 
by the Duke of Tuscany, and then went on to 
Ferrara, arriving in that grey old city while King 
Carnival held his court. When Duke Alphonso 
d Este heard of the approach of the sworn foe of 
these frivolous and often sinful masquerades, he 
ordered the mascheroni to be taken down, divested 
himself of the mask and disguise he was wearing, 
and commanded all the citizens to unmask. 

He then went forth to receive his illustrious 
guest with almost regal honour, and during the 
six days the Cardinal passed at Ferrara, city and 
people were transformed. They were pious, 
decorous, quiet; jousts, games, and dances, were at 
an end. Everyone followed Charles from church 
to church ; prayers, sermons, sacred music, were 
the order of the day ; in short, one would have 
thought it was Holy Week instead of the gay 
season of the rollicking carnival. 

From Ferrara the reforming Cardinal proceeded 
to Venice. He had been entrusted by the Pope 
with a mission to the Doge and Council anent 
the Inquisition. This he faithfully performed; 
at the same time he succeeded in effecting many 
salutary reforms among both clergy and laity. 

The Reforming Cardinal 

He was surprised and grieved to find that the 
Bishops and priests went about in ordinary dress, 
and that sixteen prelates were living in the city, 
to the utter neglect of their sees. 

This state of things must be put an end to. 
He expostulated with the offenders, who proved 
amenable, at once adopted the clerical garb, and 
promised not to absent themselves in future so 
frequently from their dioceses. 

At Verona, at Vincenza, and at Brescia, he was 
received with demonstrations of affection and 
reverence. Indeed, at Vincenza the citizens 
declared they would not allow him to leave them, 
and they actually raised the drawbridge to prevent 
his departure. 

But the enthusiastic receptions these cities 
accorded to him were but as moonlight unto 
sunlight compared to the sumptuous ovation his 
flock gave him. When he was yet some leagues 
from Milan, the inhabitants went forth to meet 
him, singing hymns, firing cannon, trumpets blow 
ing, bells ringing. They pressed round him, so 
that he was almost suffocated. The mule he 
always rode was a vicious beast, most unmanage 
able, and given to kicking and plunging ; but on 
this occasion he became quite lamblike, so that 
the people exclaimed : " Even the dumb beast 
knows how we love our dearest pastor ; the 
wicked brute has become docile and will not 
hurt us, while we show our devotion to our 
Archbishop and press round him." Then they 

St. Charles Borromeo 

shouted "Vivas!" and cried and sobbed aloud 
in the joy of their hearts, saying to each other : 
" He has come back to us, our dearest pastor. 
He has not stayed in Rome ! It was a lie, an 
evil report, when men said he would never come 
back to us. Thank God you are here, Eminence. 
Bless your children, Padre mio !" 

Overcome with emotion at the evidences of 
such great devotion, the Cardinal was unable to 
utter a syllable. Silent, but with tears of joy 
streaming from his eyes, and surrounded by his 
loving children, he made his triumphal entry into 



ON Saturday Charles rode triumphantly into 
Milan, greeted by ringing cheers, by heart-felt 
prayers, and of cries of love and loyalty. On his 
arrival at the archiepiscopal palace, the Governor 
paid him a ceremonious visit. They talked together 
for awhile, apparently on good terms ; everyone 
hoped the hatchet was buried. But the following 
day the first Sunday in Lent the Marquis 
d Ayamonte once more threw down the glove, 
and defied not only the Cardinal, but the Sovereign 
Pontiff. Gregory had given his solemn approba 
tion to all the decrees issued by Charles ; therefore 
he had practically forbidden jousts, games, and 
other diversions, to be held on Sundays and 
holidays during the hours of Divine service. 

The Governor, in defiance alike of Pope and 
Cardinal, held a tournament on that memorable 
Sunday in the piazza in front of the Duomo. 
He and his son were there, and some other 
members of his family. His wife, Donna Anna, 
absolutely refused to be present in fact, attended 
Vespers while the jousts were in progress. A few 
of the nobles and citizens also sanctioned the 

St. Charles Borromeo 

" diabolical jousts" to use the words of an old 
chronicler but the people en masse refused to 
take part in them either as actors or spectators. 

The Marquis d Ayamonte had to get from the 
garrison at Pavia a company of light horse to 
ride in the lists. 

Charles was deeply grieved by this fresh proof 
of the Governor s irreconcilable spirit. He had 
hoped for peace, and to be at last able to sheath 
the sword; but D Ayamonte had evidently thrown 
away the scabbard, and was resolved to carry on 
the struggle. The Cardinal very reluctantly put 
nearly all who had taken part, or been present 
at the " diabolical jousts," under the ban of Holy 

Charles wrote to Monsignor Speciano to acquaint 
him with the affair, telling him that he had not 
included D Ayamonte and his son in the sentence 
of excommunication, considering them, as it were, 
outside the pale. " I consider," he goes on, " my 
authority sufficiently vindicated. No one in future 
will take part in these jousts and profane diver 
sions ; even the soldiers refuse, yielding obedience 
to my edicts instead of to those of the Governor. 
On the whole this affair has but strengthened the 
ecclesiastical power, and I hope His Holiness will 
give to my acts the weight of his wise approbation." 

Gregory gave his sanction, and sent the 
Governor s envoys out of Rome, having abso 
lutely refused to give them any redress. He 
listened patiently and courteously to their accusa- 


The Minister of Charles Borromeo 

tion and complaints, and then told them they 
had no case, and that it was his intention to 
uphold in all things the authority of Cardinal 

They returned to Milan discontented, discom 
fited, and powerless. 

During Lent Charles visited Brescia. He 
returned to Milan in Holy Week, and visited the 
Governor, hoping that this time of penance and 
of mourning would soften his heart and cause him 
to repent. 

D Ayamonte listened quietly to the Cardinal s 
exhortations, even thanked him, and then re 
marked with a covert sneer, raising his eyes to 
heaven : " It is unbearable that we in Milan should 
not enjoy the liberty possessed by every other city 
in Italy, and that we cannot be permitted to act 
as they do." 

Charles sighed and took his leave, inwardly 
praying that God would touch the heart of this 
proud and obdurate man. 

His prayers were heard, but not as he intended ; 
for the Governor fell dangerously ill, and in his 
last agony he repented, imploring his attendants 
to send for his quondam foe. 

The Cardinal had returned to Brescia after 
Easter, but no sooner did he hear of D Ayamonte s 
serious illness, than, as he himself says, he flew 
to Milan, hoping to be in time to assist at the 
last moments of the Governor. 

He found him at the point of death, speechless, 


St. Charles Borromeo 

but conscious. Charles remained with him for 
four hours, gave him absolution, consoled him, 
exhorting him to have confidence in the mercy of 
God, painting for him in glowing colours the joys 
of Paradise. 

At the last awful moment Charles read aloud 
to him the Gospel of the Passion of our Lord, and 
at the words, Et inclinato capite tradidit spiritum, 
the soul of D Ayamonte passed peacefully away. 

The Cardinal superintended the arrangements 
for the funeral, presided at it pontifically, com 
forted the widow and orphans, and once more 
proved, as formerly in the case of Don Luis de 
Requesens, that his was the "charity that suffereth 
long, and is kind ; beareth all things, believeth all 
things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." 

A friend and admirer of our saint, Don Sancho 
di Guevara Padiglia, was appointed Governor pro 
tern. Everyone was pleased ; the good citizens 
thought the millennium had come, and that in 
future the lamb and the wolf would lie down 
together. But the wolf was no sooner in possession 
of supreme power than he showed his teeth. In 
other words, Don Sancho acted in the same 
arrogant and despotic manner as his predecessors, 
and had scarcely tasted the sweets of power when 
he used that power to molest his former friend. 
He would not permit the ecclesiastical tribunals 
to proceed against laymen for offences against the 
canon law. 

He forbade the Archbishop and his clergy to 

The Minister of Charles Borromeo 

visit the public hospital, and he started the usual 
round of jousts, games, and diversions, during the 
hours of Divine service. He insisted that the 
members of the Confraternity of the Misericordia 
should walk in the different processions with 
uncovered faces, threatening to imprison them if 
they disobeyed. 

Things had come to such a pass that Charles 
saw there was but one course open for him a 
direct appeal to Philip II., King of Spain, and 
Sovereign of the Duchy of Milan. 

The Cardinal had for some time intended doing 
so, and had looked round for a suitable envoy. 
His choice fell on a Barnabite priest, Father 
Charles Bascape, a learned and prudent man, who 
afterwards became Bishop of Novara. This good 
priest arrived at Badajoz in Castile, on the borders 
of Portugal, on August 4, 1580. The King was 
engaged there in carrying on a war against the 
Portuguese, and, as he was much occupied, Father 
Bascape had some difficult in obtaining an 

When Philip understood that he came on a 
mission from Cardinal Borromeo, he received him 
very graciously, and accepted with singular piety 
and gratitude the little reliquary containing relics 
of the Holy Innocents sent him by Charles. He 
listened attentively to Father Bascape, telling him 
he would consult his confessor a saintly and 
wise Dominican, Father Diego Clavesio. 

Father Diego recommended him to appoint a 

St. Charles Borromeo 

Governor who would be willing to submit to the 
Cardinal s decrees. Philip consented ; he wrote 
the following kind and appreciative letter to 
Charles : 

" Don Philip, by the grace of God, King of Spain, of 
Sicily, of Jerusalem, etc. 


Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, and our dearest 
beloved Friend, I have read your letter of May 15, 
and I have listened to the Religious sent by you 
to me, and I have studied the memoriale which 
he gave me from you, and which clearly shows 
your zeal for religion and your sincere piety. The 
perusal of it afforded us great satisfaction. Please 
God we shall soon be able to put an end to all 
unpleasantness, and bring matters to a satisfactory 
conclusion. I have given instructions to my 
Ministers to put an end to the blasphemies, plays, 
and other public disorders, that offend Almighty 
God. I leave you free to act as you please in the 
other matters you mention, only imploring you to 
be prudent and moderate ; in order to obtain good 
results, one must use the means that are most 
likely to influence people. 

" I thank you for the blessed relics you so kindly 
sent me, not only because of their intrinsic value, 
being as they are worthy of reverence and venera 
tion, but also because I appreciate your thoughtful 
kindness in sending them to me. May our Lord 

The Minister of Charles Borromeo 

Jesus Christ ever guard and protect you, our 
dearest friend ! 
" BADAJOZ, October 24, 1580." 

When the Cardinal received this cordial letter, 
he remarked to his future biographer, Giussiano : 

" I have a piece of good news for you, for 
which we must thank God, for we shall have peace 
at last ; the King intends sending a Governor who 
will agree with me in everything." 

As a matter of fact, Father Bascape had suc 
ceeded all along the line. The King sent Alcanisio 
to Rome to make a thorough investigation of the 
disputed points, with the result that he told 
Monsignor Speciano to write to Cardinal Bor 
romeo to tell him that, if he wished, he could have 
the entire administration of temporal as well as 
ecclesiastical power, for the King and his Ministers 
held the highest opinion of him. 

From that day peace, love, and harmony, reigned 
in Milan. No one opposed the Cardinal ; he was 
the real ruler, everyone said : 

" We must obey the Archbishop ; the King 
wishes it ; we are forbidden to contest his authority. 
The time of struggle is past ; he must be obeyed." 

So great was the change that Monsignor 
Speciano wrote to the Cardinal on May 16, 1581 : 

" Alcanisio tells me that all depends on you, not 

only in Milan, but in Naples and in Sicily. He 

says that the King s Ministers esteem and reverence 

you even more than the King does, and they are 


St. Charles Borromeo 

convinced that His Majesty has more confidence 
in you than in anyone. Indeed, he has such an 
exalted opinion of you that they say he intends to 
consult you about all ecclesiastical appointments." 
When, in 1583, Philip appointed Don d Arra- 
gona, Duke of Tierranueva, Governor of Milan, he 
said to him : " Go quickly to Milan, but remember 
you are to consider yourself much more the 
minister of Charles Borromeo than Governor of 
Milan. He is the defender of our realm. In re 
kindling in the hearts of our people the love of 
religion, he has made it unnecessary for us to 
employ soldiers to preserve tranquillity ; for he, in 
making them religious and devout, has caused them 
to become loyal subjects." 



WHEN in Rome, Charles had suggested to 
Gregory XIII. that a judicious and efficacious 
means of firmly establishing the decrees of the 
Council of Trent would be for the Bishops to 
visit each other s dioceses and report thereon. 
The Sovereign Pontiff approved, and appointed 
Charles Visitor Apostolic of all the dioceses of 
Lombardy, with, at his own request, the exception 
of his own see. 

The Archbishop visited Brescia, Bergamo, Cre 
monain fact, all the dioceses during 1580-81, 
reforming, exhorting, preaching, converting ; in 
short, sowing the good seed generously, and 
in nothing seeking or sparing himself. 

At this time the country round Brescia was 
ravaged by four companies of banditti. These 
fierce and reckless brigands were the terror of 
the respectable and law-abiding inhabitants, and 
what made them most dangerous was the fact 
that their chiefs were men of noble birth, who 
for various reasons had become outlaws. 

They were Bertazzoli de Salo, Sala d Asola, 
Ottavio d Avogradro, and Don Clerici. These 

St. Charles Borromeo 

wild and desperate men were the leaders of wild 
and desperate bands ; they were the scourge of 
the country, keeping up a predatory warfare, and 
committing deeds of violence and rapine. 

Charles heard of them, and resolved to endeavour 
to convert them. He sent them word that he 
greatly desired to interview them, and see for 
himself what manner of men they were. One band, 
commanded by Count d Ottavio d Avogradro, 
accepted his invitation, and were so touched by 
his gentleness and charity that they declared 
they were willing to change their lives. They 
implored him to allow them to assist at his Mass 
on the following morning. Charles was only too 
pleased to grant them this favour, stipulating, 
however, that they should come unarmed. 

To show his agreement with this wish, the 
Count laid his arquebuse on the floor at the 
Cardinal s feet. 

At Martinego our saint found himself in the 
very den of the robbers ; for, halting at an inn 
outside the town, he discovered to his great joy 
that it was crowded from cellar to garret with 
banditti. Here was a chance for the reforming 
Cardinal. Full of holy zeal and charity, he spent 
the whole night with these men, exhorting them 
to repentance. He succeeded in melting their 
hard hearts, for each and all confessed to him, 
received absolution, and the following morning 
were present at the Divine Sacrifice. We can 
imagine with what grateful fervour and seraphic 

Apostolic Visitations 

love he offered up Mass for these fierce brands 
he had with God s help snatched from the burning. 

He gave them letters of recommendation to the 
Provost and Archdeacon of Cremona, hoping in 
this way to help them to keep their good resolu 
tions. They persevered, these brave but hitherto 
misguided men ; strife and conflict ceased ; there 
were no more robberies ; peace reigned through 
out the land. And this most desirable state of 
affairs had been brought about by the kindness 
and sweet reasonableness of the man who was 
by so many considered stern and despotic. It 
was only in defence of the liberties of Holy 
Church that Charles was inflexible and rigid ; 
when She was not threatened, his true nature 
showed from behind the mask of severity, and 
those who came in contact with him, whether 
rich or poor, saints or sinners, felt irresistibly 
compelled to give frank, spontaneous admiration 
to the heroic and noble qualities that made his 
strong personality so irresistibly attractive. 

We have seen him with ruthless, lawless 
brigands, changing and transforming them by 
the magic of his eloquence and zeal into good 
and pious citizens ; we will follow his exalted 
figure to another and very different meeting. It 
was at Chatillon delle Stiviere, near Asola, that 
the ascetic and prematurely aged Cardinal met 
Aloysius, the young angelic son of the Marquis 
di Gonzaga. 

The lad was then only twelve, but already was 

St. Charles Borromeo 

a child-saint one whose pure soul had never 
been, never was to be, tarnished by the least 
imperfection. It was the zealous, daring reformer 
who gave Holy Communion for the first time to 
this flower of innocence, and those who witnessed 
never forgot the heavenly scene the austere yet 
kindly Archbishop, bending over and giving the 
Bread of Life to the kneeling boy. The faces of 
both were transfigured, shining with celestial joy, 
the flames of Divine love seeming to envelop them 
and separate them from ordinary mortals. 

This candid and holy youth afterwards entered 
the Society of Jesus, was one of the most humble 
of its members, a mirror of obedience and morti 
fication, and, above all, of purity, and is venerated 
by us as St. Aloysius Gonzaga. 

Charles proceeded on his visitations, going 
through the country, doing good and bringing 
comfort and peace to many weary souls. He 
returned to Milan for a short time to receive the 
Empress Mary of Austria, who was on her way 
to Portugal, having been asked by her brother, 
King Philip II., to govern that country. Having 
given her the welcome due as much to her virtue 
and merit as to her exalted rank, he went to 
Vercelli on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. 
Eusebius, whose relics had lately been discovered 
by the Bishop of that city, and the translation 
of them to a fitting sanctuary was a holy and 
glorious spectacle, one which rejoiced the reverent 
and devout soul of our saint. 

Apostolic Visitations 

From Vercelli he went to Masino, where he met 
his spiritual son, Charles Emmanuel, who had 
succeeded his father as Duke of Savoy, and went 
with him to Turin to gratify once more his devo 
tion to the sacred Passion of Christ by venerating 
the Holy Winding-Sheet. 

Charles returned to Brescia. It was a vast 
diocese, and to visit it thoroughly took a long 
time and many journeys to and fro. It extended 
into wild and unfrequented districts bordering 
on the Tyrol. It was always difficult, generally 
dangerous, to cross the mountain passes and to 
venture among the fierce and brutal inhabitants. 

The courageous reformer had in a marked 
degree " the will to do, the soul to dare," and he 
went with unruffled calmness into the midst of the 
most turbulent men. With his gentle, dignified 
manner, his ardent charity, and his fervid elo 
quence, he won their hearts and converted them, 
even as he had the lawless brigands, into honest, 
God-fearing men. 

At Gardono he raised the rough and ignorant 
miners from the state of degradation into which 
they had fallen. At Camonica he converted the 
population en masse, and effected some very neces 
sary reforms among the pastors of these poor 
neglected sheep. 

At Tirano he was warmly welcomed, even the 
Calvinists sharing the enthusiasm of the in 
habitants, and going forth with their Catholic 
neighbours to greet their illustrious visitor. They 
193 o 

St. Charles Borromeo 

listened to his discourses, they assisted at Holy 
Mass, and many abjured their errors and were 
received by him into the true Church. 

In the church at Tirano there is a miraculous 
image of our Lady, and Charles frequently spent 
the night kneeling before it in fervent prayer. 

These long vigils appealed to the heretics almost 
as much as his persuasive and soul-stirring ser 
mons. Example is always more efficacious than 
precept, and these long hours spent in a cold and 
deserted church, in supplication before the statue 
of our beloved Mother, made them realize the 
heroic self-forgetfulness and extraordinary sanctity 
of the dauntless champion of the Catholic Faith. 

Another manifestation of his complex character 
succeeded in quite winning their hearts. They 
saw him help with money and advice their poor 
starving brethren, spend precious hours instruct 
ing the rude peasants he met on the highway, and 
on one occasion he made a long detour in order to 
teach a little stupid, half-witted boy to bless himself 
and to recite the " Our Father " and " Hail Mary." 
The lad was dull and clownish, but the great 
Cardinal s patience never gave way ; he persevered 
until success crowned his efforts, taking infinite 
pains to teach one miserable little gamin, showing 
thus that he followed St. Ignatius s maxim that 
what is worth doing is worth doing well. 

It is these apparently trivial things that show a 
man s true nature. " That best portion of a good 
man s life : his little, nameless, unremembered acts 
of kindness and of love." 



PHILIP NERI and Charles Borromeo had been 
friends for many years. Their mutual affection 
and veneration were so great that, as we have 
seen, they were bound together in a holy love 
resembling that of David and Jonathan. Very 
pleasant had this friendship been to them ; they 
had encouraged, consoled, advised, and occasionally 
generously treated each other to spiritual alms, 
generally given in a half -jesting manner, but 
always received with profound gratitude. Now 
a little cloud arose that threatened to diminish 
somewhat the harmony that had hitherto marked 
their intercourse. 

In 1581, Duke William of Bavaria asked the 
reforming Cardinal to arrange that everything 
defective and wrong in the carrying out of Divine 
service in his dominions should be set right. 

Accordingly, Charles entreated Gregory XIII. 
to send two priests versed in the sacred ceremonies 
to that country. The Pope selected two priests 
of the Oratory of San Girolamo, and Charles at 
once jumped to the conclusion that they were sons 
of St. Philip. He was delighted, and wrote 

St. Charles Borromeo 

expressing his gratification at this appointment, 
mentioning that the Duke also was well pleased. 

The priests, however, felt unable to undertake 
so long a journey ; their courage failed, and they 
absolutely refused to go to Bavaria. 

Charles was grievously disappointed, and he 
wrote to Philip, telling him he could not have 
believed it possible that Fathers of the Oratory 
would so shirk their plain duty, actually disobey 
ing the Sovereign Pontiff. 

Philip replied as follows : " The Pope sent me 
a note yesterday, written by you, in which you 
show that you are displeased with us, believing 
that two of our Fathers had promised to go to 
Bavaria, and afterwards refused to go, thus dis 
obeying the commands of the Pope. Therefore I 
write to you with the same frankness that you 
yourself always use, to clear up this matter and to 
let you know the truth. The two priests are not 
members of our congregation, but chaplains of the 
Confraternity of Charity at San Girolamo, and are 
not connected w r ith us. ... We are incapable 
of such contumacy. . . . Were it otherwise, we 
should consider ourselves guilty of grievous error 
and sin, from which we pray God always to deliver 
us. ... We entreat you to pray for us, and if at 
any time you hear of anything, either in me or in 
any of our Fathers, that requires correction, I beg 
of you yourself to perform this act of charity 
towards us, and we will accept such correction as 
a great favour. June 15, 1581." 

Passing Clouds 

Not content with writing this explanation, Philip 
sent a certificate, signed by the two priests of San 
Girolamo, testifying that there was no connection 
between their confraternity and the Oratory, and 
that Philip had nothing to do with their refusal to 
go to Bavaria. This proceeding deeply wounded 
Charles ; he wrote to Philip the following letter of 
reproach : 

" Assuredly I did not require the formal certi 
ficate of the two priests to convince me they did 
not belong to your congregation. Your word was 
enough. This is inordinate affection towards your 
own congregation. Probably you justify it to 
yourself, but it is a matter on which I have some 
thing to say to you, and I will gladly say it when 
we meet. In the meantime I commend myself to 
your prayers." 

Previous to the Bavarian episode there had been 
for a very short time, however a slight coolness 
between them. Philip had recalled his sons from 
Milan a short time before the plague broke out, 
and while it raged Charles had written to Mon- 
signor Speciano, expressing his regret that they 
had been removed when they would have been 
most useful, and hoping that Philip would send 
them back again. Philip declined to do so, and a 
correspondence ensued on the re-establishment of 
the Oratory at Milan. 

Charles was annoyed at the time, that Philip 
had taken them away when their services were 
most required, and sometimes half playfully 

St. Charles Borromeo 

remarked " that Philip was a man without com 

Then they had differed on the subject of the 
rite to be used by the Oratorians in Milan, their 
founder insisting that they should use the Roman 
Rite, and Charles declaring that when in Milan 
they should do as the Milanese did, and follow 
the Ambrosian Rite. 

They had also had several discussions over 
San Simone, the house assigned to them, the 
Fathers of the Oratory thinking it too far away 
from the centre of the city ; while the Archbishop 
had at the time no other convent to give them, but 
he was most desirous that they should settle in 
his diocese. He accordingly wrote to Monsignor 
Speciano : " I shall have much pleasure in seeing 
those Fathers from San Girolamo, who are come 
to San Simone in Milan, particularly the one 
you praise so highly, and all my clergy and 
attendants will make much of them. I don t 
want the same thing to happen to them that hap 
pened to that father who came with Mezzabarba 
without his celebret, and whom I could not permit 
to offer up the Divine Sacrifice. In case Father 
Philip does not care for San Simone, as you hint, 
I will look out for some other place for them, for 
I acknowledge that San Simone is rather out of 
the way." But soon afterwards the Oratorians 
left San Simone, and quitted Milan for good ; nor 
did they return there until both Philip and Charles 
were canonized saints. 


Passing Clouds 

In 1582 these two holy men met again in Rome 
and discoursed on many things, with much joy 
and pleasure in each other s society, and with 
great spiritual profit to their souls ; for it seemed 
as though all these little differences of opinion 
had only strengthened their mutual veneration 
and affection. 

The cloud was quickly dispelled, the little rift 
within the lute failed to make the music mute, 
and the friends continued to love and esteem each 
other, the marked differences in their characters 
only binding them more closely together. " Their 
hearts were of each other sure." 

" It is the secret sympathy, 
The silver link, the silken tie, 
Which heart to heart and mind to mind 
In body and in soul can bind." 

A common sorrow soon drew them yet closer 
together. On Sunday, April 25, 1582, the dearly 
loved sister of Charles, Princess Anna of Colonna, 
fell asleep in Jesus. 

She had been for years the docile, fervent 
penitent of Philip, and he had led her through 
thorny paths to a high degree of perfection. 
Both men felt her loss, for she was inexpressibly 
dear to them. It was, however, a source of pure 
joy to them to know that her last moments had 
been peaceful and happy. 

Father Fabrizio, S.J., describes her death as 
follows : " When Anna was dying, everything 
about her breathed the holiest Christian per- 

St. Charles Borromeo 

fection, but the greatest holiness was in her soul. 
She was apparently set free, not only from bodily 
miseries, but also from the scruples that had 
troubled her during life. She went forth to meet 
her heavenly Bridegroom with ineffable love, with 
great humility and self-distrust, but with perfect 
confidence in Him ; so with ardent affections 
towards God, in the full light of the Holy Spirit, 
not cast down by pain, she went to take her place 
amongst those who have washed their robes in 
the blood of the Saviour." 

On May 4, 1582, Charles wrote to his friend 
the Duke of Tuscany as follows : " Her death was 
as edifying and as glorious as her life. . . . Death 
must open the gates of eternal life to one whose 
life was a death in life. She is gone to receive 
the reward exceeding great, promised to those 
who work and suffer in this life. Never have I 
felt so profound a sorrow ; my heart is cleft in 
twain, and I can never sufficiently venerate her 
remains or honour her noble deeds. Our family 
owe her everlasting gratitude, for she has embel 
lished it by her virtues and helped us by her 
example. Her loss causes us poignant anguish, 
but we must endeavour to hush the sorrowful 
throbbings of our hearts and be resigned to the 
Divine will. . . . When we think over all the 
circumstances of her death, we must gratefully 
acknowledge that we have to thank God from our 
hearts for having dealt so graciously with His good 
and faithful handmaid." 



IN 1582 Charles journeyed for the last time to 
the Eternal City. It was three years since his 
previous visit, and, in accordance with ecclesias 
tical observances, it was his duty to go there to 
give an account of his diocese and to pray at the 
tombs of the holy Apostles. 

Before starting, however, he wrote to ask the 
permission of Cesare Gambara of Tortona, the 
oldest prelate in the province. He did so in 
order to obey to the letter the regulations of the 
Council of Trent. 

He intended setting out early in October, but, 
as he wrote to Monsignor Speciano, " We often 
decide to do things, but Almighty God compels us 
to change our plans. The death of the Princess 
Malfetta caused me to start sooner than I intended. 
As I am thus already en route, I think it more 
advisable to continue my journey than to return 
to Milan, particularly as I can quite easily wind 
up certain affairs from here which I was unable to 
finish before leaving Milan. ... I proposed going 
by sea to Ancona, but I have changed my mind. 
... I prefer to go in a litter, as that mode of 

St. Charles Borromeo 

travelling is more conducive to contemplation, and 
enables one to meditate better on sacred subjects. 
I am staying with the Capuchins of Sabbionetta, 
and I enjoy a delightful solitude, and am able 
quietly to attend to various business matters." 

The Archbishop remained in this blessed retreat 
until the end of September, praying, meditating, 
and practising such severe mortifications that the 
strict life of the Franciscans appeared light and 
easy, almost sensual, in comparison with his 
rigorous austerities. 

On October 24, 1582, Charles Borromeo arrived 
in Rome, and at once took up his abode in the 
house close to his beloved and titular church of 
Santa Prassede. On October 30 his friend Giulio 
Ornato wrote to Milan as follows : " I pass over 
in silence the honours, caresses, favours, gorgeous 
receptions, and a thousand other things, with 
which we were overwhelmed at Mantua, Bologna, 
Florence in fact, at all our halting-places. On 
Tuesday morning our illustrious Cardinal and 
master went to the Villa to kiss the Pope s feet. 
He spent four days there, was most graciously 
welcomed, and was never refused an audience. 
Yesterday afternoon the Sovereign Pontiff and 
the Court returned to Rome, the Holy Father 
visited the seven basilicas, and our Cardinal 
accompanied him." 

The Pope wished Charles to take a more im 
portant title than that of Cardinal of Santa 
Prassede, urging him to take that of Santa Maria 

The Cardinal of Santa Prassede 

di Trastevere, telling him that not only was it a 
sacred spot, as it was the first church consecrated 
to the Blessed Virgin, but that also it was nearer 
the Vatican, and the air was purer and more 
invigorating ; and, then, he would be able to make 
about 200 scudi a year by letting the magnificent 
and vast gardens. 

The Cardinal replied : " I prefer my own title 
of Santa Prassede, because I so deeply reverence 
the sacred relics in that holy church. A busy 
man finds the air pure and invigorating every 
where ; and as for the 200 scudi, they will be 
just as useful to any other Cardinal." 

He loved this titular church of his dearly, as he 
said, on account of the many sacred relics it 
contained, but particularly because it held that 
priceless treasure, the Column to which our 
Redeemer was bound. Before this heart-stirring 
memorial of our Saviour s love for us, Charles 
spent long hours in prayer and meditation. In 
it are also preserved a portion of the Crown of 
Thorns and the Sponge, and a few tresses of our 
Lady s hair. 

In the sacristy there is a splendid picture by 
Guido Romano of the Flagellation, and a miniature 
portrait of our Lord, said to have belonged to 
St. Peter, and to have been given by him to 
Santa Prassede. Certainly this Church of Peace 
is rich in relics of our Saviour s Passion, and no 
wonder that the man who loved with a surpassing 
love his Crucified Master would not give up for 

St. Charles Borromeo 

the wealthiest and most magnificent basilica this 
humble temple dedicated to a humble maiden, 
that yet, humble as it was, held treasures inex 
pressibly dear to his and to our hearts. 

Father Lucien de Florence, a monk at the 
monastery of Santa Prassede, gives us a vivid 
and interesting account of the life Charles led 
during his stay in Rome in 1582. 

"The holy Cardinal," he writes, "has selected 
for his particular use a small chair; on this he 
sleeps for about three hours every night ; he has 
quite given up going to bed. The rest of the 
night he spends in meditation ; then he recites 
Matins, kneeling uncovered. He often spends 
the whole night in the crypt under the high-altar, 
in prayer before the precious relics preserved there. 
Neither the extreme cold nor the dampness of the 
place can turn him aside from this way of living, 
which is more that of an angel than a man. At 
daybreak he celebrates Holy Mass ; the Spanish 
Ambassador, Count Olivarez, and his wife, are 
generally present. The severity of the weather 
and the very early hour prevents not a number of 
noble ladies and other distinguished people from 
attending. Count Olivarez says our Cardinal is 
more like an angel than a man." 

It is a strange fact that Charles, who during 
the greater part of his life slept daily only for three 
or four hours, was naturally inclined to drowsiness. 
He tells us that he could never quite master this 
inclination, and that it was always with the 

The Cardinal of Santa Prassede 

greatest difficulty he woke up. Probably that is 
why he slept on a chair, dreading that, if he were 
reposing in a comfortable bed, he would not get 
up at a sufficiently early hour. People remon 
strated with him for giving such a short time to 
rest, and to these kind friends he generally replied : 
" My uncle Giacopo de Medici, who is a soldier, 
never undresses, and always sleeps on a chair, so 
that he may be ready to fight at a moment s 
notice ; and if the soldier of an earthly Sovereign 
is so watchful, surely a soldier of the Cross, and 
particularly a Bishop, should be as vigilant : for to 
us pastors of Christ are entrusted the care of 
souls, and we have to wage constant war against 
the world, the flesh, and the devil." 

On another occasion a pious director told him 
that everyone should have seven hours sleep. "A 
Bishop," he replied, " must be an exception to 
this rule." 

The Cardinal of the Church of Peace was 
invariably so calm and recollected that people 
sometimes thought he slept. In particular, he 
generally remained perfectly motionless while 
listening to sermons, his eyes closed, and his 
whole appearance resembling one who was either 
dead or in a restful slumber. One day at devo 
tions in Rome, a Bishop noticed that, while Father 
Francis Toledo was preaching, Charles Borromeo 
was apparently enjoying a pleasant nap. He 
remarked later on to a friend : " Cardinal Bor- 
romeo s confessor ought to give him as a penance 

St. Charles Borromeo 

to stop longer in bed, in order that he may keep 
awake during the day, and particularly during 

The person addressed dined that day with 
Charles, and was greatly surprised, and some 
what amused, to hear him repeat almost word 
for word Father Toledo s discourse. 

During this his last visit to Rome, Charles 
brought to a high degree of perfection the Congre 
gation of Priests delle Provincie Lombarde, which 
he had founded some time previously in imitation 
of the Vatican Nights. 

This confraternity met in the Church of 
St. Ambrose in the Corso, and was composed 
principally of prelates and clergymen from Lom- 
bardy. Their object was to form a school of 
eloquent and learned preachers. Every Sunday 
they had spiritual exercises, consisting of sermons 
interspersed with prayers and music ; for Charles 
always believed in the power of music, both 
instrumental and vocal, to stir the heart with 
high and noble emotions, and to raise it above 
this world to the contemplation of heavenly joys. 

"There is in souls a sympathy with sounds ; 
And as the mind is pitched, the ear is pleased 
With melting airs or martial, brisk or gay. 
Some chord in unison with what we hear 
Is touched within us, and the heart replies." 

Charles was also the originator of the Congrega 
tion of Rites, although on his return to his diocese 
the brunt of the work fell upon his friend Cardinal 
Paleotti, and later on upon Cardinal Caraffa. Yet 

The Cardinal of Santa Prassede 

they unanimously agreed that, while he lived, 
Charles was the life and soul of the work. It 
was not, however, until some years after his death 
that the Conregation of Rites received the Papal 
sanction, during the pontificate of Sixtus V. 

Gregory XIII., who, as we know, held him in 
high esteem, confided to him the important 
mission of establishing peace and concord among 
the numerous branches of the Franciscan Order. 
The Cardinal of Santa Prassede had been their 
protector, and was ever their loyal and devoted 
friend, cherishing with a very special affection the 
memory of their seraphic founder. He therefore 
undertook this troublesome task with alacrity, and, 
with his usual prudence and tact, soon brought 
matters to a satisfactory issue, helping to restore 
to the numerous members their love of poverty 
and of obedience with their pristine fervour. 

The Order of the Knights of Malta and of 
St. John of Jerusalem had greatly deteriorated ; 
the reforming Cardinal undertook their reform 
with unabated vigour and zeal, and success once 
more crowned his efforts. 

He spent his time in Rome in bringing to a 
satisfactory conclusion many other difficult and 
important works, the Pope invariably entrusting 
to him the conduct of the most difficult and 
intricate affairs. 

Gregory not only loved and esteemed, but also 
appears to have been considerably in awe of the 
stern ascetic. On one occasion, when the Pope 

St. Charles Borromeo 

and several of the Cardinals were amusing them 
selves in the groves of the Vatican, watching 
horses being exercised, an attendant announced 
that Cardinal Borromeo was approaching. " Let 
us hasten away," cried the Pope. " If Cardinal 
Borromeo finds us diverting ourselves here, he 
will say we are wasting our time." 

At any rate, the Pope was determined that the 
Cardinal should not waste his own time, for he 
gave him so much to do that it was a marvel that 
he did not break down under the constant strain. 

However, the Sovereign Pontiff generously 
repaid him in the way he liked best, by giving 
him, on his departure for Milan, several briefs 
and diplomas conferring many favours and 
privileges on his clergy and people. Amongst 
others he gave him the right to absolve "a 
quibuscumque peccatis, et censuris, etiam in 
coena Domini, et remittendi in totum, vel in 
partem poenam incursam super irregularitatibus 
in utroque foro, etiam ex homicidio voluntario, 
quoscumque tarn laicos, quam clericos, et regulares 
Civitatis Dicecesis, et Provinciae Mediol. per se, vel 
per alium cum eisque dispensandi super qualibet 
indebita perceptione fructuum, ac pcenas incursas, 
et debita remittendi et condonandi." 

Armed with these privileges and powers, also 
with the brief appointing him Apostolic Visitor of 
all Switzerland, Charles set out for Milan early 
in January, 1683. He wrote from Spoleto to his 
vicar : 


The Cardinal of Santa Prassede 

"We shall not arrive for some time, for the 
Pope has commissioned us to arrange several 
important affairs. We shall therefore be com 
pelled to make frequent halts." 

One of the affairs confided to Charles was the 
very trying one of examining into the rights and 
wrongs of the marriage contracted between Vin- 
cenzo di Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and Mar- 
geretta Farnese, daughter of the Duke of Parma. 

This union was finally declared null and void, 
and the bride became the spouse of Christ. She 
entered the Convent of St. Paul at Mantua, and 
received the habit from the hands of Charles 
Borromeo on October 30, 1583. 



IN July, 1583, Charles travelled on and by the 
shores of Lago Maggiore. The Rocca d Arona 
had been restored to him by Philip, but we do 
not hear that he visited it. It was to Ascona 
he bent his steps, to lay the foundation-stone 
of a college. A wealthy inhabitant bequeathed 
his fortune to the Sovereign Pontiff for that 
purpose, and Gregory put the matter abso 
lutely in the capable hands of the reforming 
Cardinal. Accordingly he laid the foundation- 
stone, the building got on quickly, and was 
finished within the year. While at Ascona, 
Charles heard that the plague had broken out 
in the neighbouring village of Brissago. He flew 
there on the wings of self-forgetting charity, and 
remained until the scourge had passed away. He 
nursed and consoled the poor sick people, ad 
ministered the Sacraments, and gave such liberal 
alms that he left himself completely penniless, 
and he was compelled to borrow money to enable 
him to return to Milan. 

Early in September, 1583, Charles Emmanuel, 
Duke of Savoy, fell dangerously ill. He at once 

The Only Way 

sent for his spiritual father, entreating him to 
come without delay. Charles set out at once. 
Travelling day and night, he reached Novara so 
exhausted that the Bishop of that city im 
plored him to rest, or at any rate to travel 
in a carriage. Charles at first refused, then 
accepted ; but the carriage was upset, and even 
tually he continued his journey on Horseback. 
Varied and unpleasant were the adventures he 
met with riding through the rough country roads, 
but he finally arrived at Vercelli, and hastened to 
the sick-room. 

When the illustrious patient saw his beloved 
Father beside his bed, he cried, " I am cured !" It 
was quite true ; the mere presence of the saint 
effected that which the physicians, with all their 
science, had failed to accomplish. They had 
abandoned hope, declaring the Prince could not 
recover. Behold, in an instant he regained perfect 
health: "recupero in un tratto la sanita." Giovanni 
Botero, an eyewitness, deposed to this miraculous 
recovery at the process of the canonization. 

Charles Emmanuel himself was so certain that 
he owed his wonderful cure to the Cardinal, that 
a few years after the saint s death, to show his 
gratitude and veneration, he sent an attested 
certificate to Milan, with a magnificent silver 
chandelier, and a thousand pistoles to be spent in 
keeping eleven candles continually burning in 
front of Charles s tomb. 

" We shall ever proclaim," he writes, " that it 

St. Charles Borromeo 

was through the intercession of the illustrious 
Cardinal Borromeo we were restored to health." 

Charles gave Holy Communion to the Prince. 
As he did so, he addressed him in a most touch 
ing manner, calling on him to return thanks to 
God, and recited with great fervour the psalm of 
the penitent King : " The Lord hath reigned : 
He is clothed with beauty : the Lord is clothed 
with strength, and hath girded Himself. . . . Thy 
testimonies are made exceedingly credible : holi 
ness becometh Thine house, O Lord, unto length 
of days." 

In accordance with the Cardinal s wish, public 
devotions were held in the city, and the people 
gave fervent thanks to God for the miraculous 
restoration to health of their beloved Prince, and 
greeted the Cardinal with joyous acclamations, 
crying : " It is he, the faithful servant of the Lord, 
who has worked the miracle." 

In the evening Charles set out on his home 
ward journey. He arrived at Milan in time to 
officiate pontifically on the Feast of the Nativity 
of the Blessed Virgin. In a moving discourse he 
related the object and the happy result of his 

The Archbishop invariably preached at the 
Mass he celebrated, standing in front of the altar 
instead of mounting the pulpit. His reasons for 
doing so he explains with his usual clearness and 
simplicity in a letter to his former vicar, Mon- 
signor Ormanetto. " I cannot make up my mind," 

The Only Way 

he writes, "to follow your advice and preach from 
the pulpit ; in fact, the more I think it over, the 
less I like it. To preach from the pulpit requires 
not only a powerful voice and much declamatory 
eloquence ; one must prepare the discourse with 
great care. I have not either the means or the 
time to do so. Speaking from before the altar all 
one says appears good and to the point, and I 
need only prepare my homily on the previous 
evening. I find this way best, because I have 
resolved, according to the rules of our liturgy, to 
preach at all the pontifical Masses. 

" In ordaining that the Bishop, robed in magnifi 
cent vestments, should preach after the first 
Gospel, the idea of the Church evidently was to 
inspire awe and reverence in the congregation. 
It gives an added majesty and authority to my 
words to speak in this manner, surrounded by my 
priests, also robed in sacred vestments." 

Charles had the gift of touching even the hardest 
hearts, although he had not an eloquent or flowing 
style, and generally spoke in the simplest way, 
using only ordinary words and never indulging in 
flowers of rhetoric. 

An intimate friend of his, Father Galliardi, S.J., 
describes his style as follows : " I have frequently 
reflected that Cardinal Borromeo was not by 
nature endowed with eloquence ; on the contrary, 
he spoke quietly and slowly, and used few words 
. . . nevertheless with these few words and these 
often spoken so low that they were scarcely 

St. Charles Borromeo 

audible I have known him not merely touch, 
but absolutely change, the hearts of those he 
addressed, persuading them to do what he wished 
even in most important matters." 

In the autumn of 1583 Charles required all his 
powers of persuasion to effect any good in the 
colossal task that lay before him. 

The Pope had appointed him, as we know, 
Apostolic Visitor of all Switzerland, and it was 
in October, 1583, that he crossed the Alps in 
order to commence this arduous undertaking. 
Parts of Switzerland were not only heretical, they 
were far worse ; for the inhabitants of some of the 
valleys were sunk in a state of moral degradation 
too horrible to describe. Suffice it to say that 
magic and sorcery were practised in an unthink 
able, unspeakable manner. Not only were the 
people given over to these devilish practices, but 
at Roveredo, in the Mesolcine Valley, the parish 
priest was actually the leader of the hellish crew. 

All Charles s prayers and exhortations failed to 
touch the heart of this miserable wretch ; he con 
tinued obstinate and unrepentant, and even the 
tears and supplications of a saint were unavailing ; 
he would not abandon his infamous practices. 
Charles was reluctantly compelled to degrade 
him from his sacred office, and to hand him over 
to the secular authority. He was punished for 
his unspeakable crimes by the flaming death that 
in those days was the penalty for sorcery. 

Charles wrote to the Bishop of Coire as follows : 

The Only Way 

" Neque desunt qui affirment (horror sit religiosis 
auribus !) eum sacrificantis veste indutum, et manu 
tenentem sacrum Chrisma impurissime saltasse. 
Sacris operabatur quotidie, afferens ad aram im- 
pudicas ex nocturnis domestic! scorti complexibus 
manus . . . profanos calices in usum sacrorum 

There were also a hundred and fifty women 
who practised the black art, and by the grace 
of God Charles succeeded in converting a hundred 
and thirty-nine of these poor creatures. They 
acknowledged their abominable crimes, and begged 
forgiveness. Eleven remained obdurate, and these 
were seized by the civil authority and condemned 
to be burnt alive. In vain the saintly Archbishop 
prayed and wept over them, imploring them to 
repent before it was too late. They refused to 
listen to him, and he was obliged to return to 
Bellinzona, and leave them to their awful doom. 

He commissioned Father Stoppani and two 
other priests to remain with them until the end, 
hoping against hope that at the last terrible 
moment they would repent, and although their 
bodies would be burned, yet their souls would be 
saved. His prayers were heard, for before the 
fatal moment arrived they repented, confessed 
their sins, and received absolution and Holy 
Communion. Four of the poor creatures were 
burned on the ist of December, four more on the 
5th, and the remaining three on the I3th. 

Father Stoppani and two other priests on each 

St. Charles Borromeo 

occasion gave them the last absolution. As the 
devouring flames enveloped them they cried aloud 
in agony, " Jesus ! Jesus ! Misericordia, Jesus ! 
Jesus !" Father Stoppani wrote to Charles that 
he had every hope that these unfortunate creatures 
had won salvation. 

The following extract from a letter from Father 
Charles to the Cardinal gives a vivid description 
of the dreadful scene : 

" There was a pile of faggots collected in a 
square, and the women were placed upon a plat 
form bound with cords, their faces turned towards 
the wood. The heat and roar of the flames were 
so terrific that flesh and bones alike were reduced 
to ashes. They confessed their crimes, and I gave 
them the final absolution, while Father Stoppani 
and two priests encouraged and comforted them. 
I am quite unable to describe their sorrow and 
repentance ; they underwent their terrible punish 
ment with resignation. Before they were brought 
to the place of execution, they confessed their sins 
and received Holy Communion. They acknow 
ledged they deserved death, and with signs of 
sincere repentance consecrated themselves to 
Christ. They wore rosaries round their necks. 

" The crowd was great, and all assembled in 
that vast space cried aloud the Holy Name ; and 
the unfortunate women echoed their cries, calling 
* Jesus ! Jesus ! from the midst of the flames." 

To us in our enlightened twentieth century this 
terrible doom the flaming death seems a des- 

The Only Way 

perate remedy for witchcraft, but in the sixteenth 
century it was generally regarded as a fitting 
penalty. Only by these appalling means could 
the land be cleared from sorcery ; only thus could 
the people be freed from the witch s dreaded 
influence. Kind-hearted, noble, and generous 
men and women, while they wept over the terrible 
fate of these miscreants, acknowledged that it was 
the only way. 




"WHAT went you out to see? A reed shaken 
with the wind ? But what went you out to see ? 
A man clothed in soft garments ? Behold, they 
that are in costly apparel, and live delicately, are 
in the houses of kings" (Luke vii. 24, 25). 

Though all sorts and conditions of men went 
forth to meet Charles as he passed from village to 
village, yet his progress was not quite a triumphal 

At Mesolco, the capital of the Mesolcine Valley, 
his efforts were unavailing ; the greater part of the 
population refused to renounce their errors, and, 
indeed, threatened, to declare war against Spain if 
he did not withdraw. 

Philip II., Henry III., Charles Emmanuel, gave 
him their support as far as possible ; but the 
greater part of Switzerland lay outside their 
jurisdiction, therefore Charles was reluctantly 
compelled to return once more to Bellinzona. 
He made this well-disposed and truly Catholic 
city his headquarters, sending from there Jesuits 
and Oblates not only into the Mesolcine Valley, 
but on to Coire. The Grison League was holding 

" What went you out to see ?" 

a Diet there, and he sent envoys to explain to 
them the deplorable condition of the inhabitants 
of their cantons, and to implore them to permit 
the people to have worthy pastors to minister to 
their spiritual necessities, even though these priests 
were foreigners, and he strongly urged that a law 
should be passed forbidding the people to give 
shelter to apostate priests. 

Although most of the members of the Diet were 
either Calvinists or followers of Zuinglius, they 
received his envoys courteously, and acceded to 
his request anent the harbouring of apostates ; but 
they refused to allow priests from other lands to 
undertake the cure of souls. While at Bellinzona, 
the heretical natives of the Rhenish valleys sent a 
secret deputation to beg him to visit their cantons, 
promising that he should be allowed to celebrate 
the mysteries of religion, administer the Sacra 
ments, and preach in public. 

The energetic Cardinal longed to take up his 
staff and go forth to preach the Gospel to these 
children who sat in the outer darkness, yet 
hungered and thirsted for the light ; but there were 
weighty reasons why he could not grant their 
request, one of the principal being that neither he 
nor any of his priests could speak German. He, 
however, treated the envoys with his usual 
courteous kindness, and promised, as soon as he 
could possibly manage it, to accede to their 

Christmas was approaching, so he was obliged 

St. Charles Borromeo 

to return to Milan. Before leaving Bellinzona 
he sent his confessor, Father Adorno, S.J., and 
several other Religious, to Chiavenna and the 
neighbouring villages of the Valtellini. This he 
did for the comfort and spiritual sustenance of the 
Catholics of the district, but the Cabinet Ministers 
swore before the Diet that the reforming Cardinal 
had not only endeavoured to reform the Faith, 
but had also tampered with the loyalty of their 
people. They loudly accused him of trying to 
induce inhabitants of the Mesolcine and Valtellini 
Valleys to renounce their allegiance to the Diet 
and become subjects of the King of Spain. 

According to their infamous insinuations, the 
saintly and high-minded Cardinal was an intriguer 
and a hypocrite, cloaking his nefarious designs 
for the extension of the power of his King under 
the garb of religious enthusiasm and zeal for 

The result of the intrigues of the Calvinist 
ministers was that Father Adorno, S.J., and some 
of his companions were imprisoned; they, however, 
were soon released. Early in 1584 Charles held 
a conference of the arch-priests and visitors of 
the diocese. He entertained them in the archi- 
episcopal palace with his usual lavish hospitality ; 
for though he lived himself on water and dried 
fruits, yet he invariably treated his guests to the 
very best of everything. Hospitality was one of 
his favourite virtues, and wherever he was he 
always practised it in the highest degree. 

" What went you out to see ?" 

He was very unwell, suffering from erysipelas in 
the leg and from other ailments, but the weak 
ness of his body in no way impaired the vigour 
of his mind. He was compelled to remain in a 
reclining position, so he lay on a couch in the 
audience chamber, and transacted the business 
of the meeting with his usual methodical clear 

The object of the conference was to inquire 
how his rules and regulations had been observed 
in all the parishes of his diocese. He noted down 
every article, with the answers he received concern 
ing it. In fact, he made a thorough examination 
into the wants of his diocese, corrected existing 
abuses, and pointed out to his clergy the surest 
means to adopt to avoid them in the future. 

Having drawn up a memorial, he got it pub 
lished, and had it ready for the synod he held in 
the following April. It contains all the necessary 
rules and counsels for governing parishes, and he 
gave it to his clergy as his last offering at this his 
last synod, for he was convinced he had but a 
short time to live. What most troubled him at 
this synod was the intelligence he had received 
that his efforts to convert the Orisons and the 
other Swiss cantons were not likely to be crowned 
with success. His clergy sympathized with him, 
and many of them volunteered to go forth to 
evangelize these fair lands. But Charles knew the 
hour had not come. He foresaw that many years 
would pass before these wandering sheep would 

St. Charles Borromeo 

be brought into the fold, and that it would be 
Francis de Sales, not Charles Borromeo, who 
would preach to them the truths of the Gospel, 
and have the ineffable joy of converting them from 
the darkness of heresy. 

He grew daily more seraphic and angelic the 
nearer the hour approached that was to release 
him from the burden of the flesh. He seemed 
on fire with Divine love, and his superabundant 
energy increased to such a degree that people 
looked upon him as a phenomenon. 

During this his last synod he preached several 
times with marvellous fervour and eloquence. 
The difficulty of speaking fluently, which he had 
struggled against more or less all his life, com 
pletely disappeared, and he electrified his audience 
by his burning eloquence. 

His biographer, Giussano, describes his soul- 
stirring discourses in the following vivid words : 
" The Cardinal spoke with such warmth and zeal 
that we felt as though ravished into an ecstasy, 
and we experienced such interior joy that we 
easily but firmly resolved to change our manner 
of life, and to devote ourselves heart and soul to 
the Divine service. As for our saintly Cardinal, 
he was so inflamed with Divine love that he 
appeared to be already in Paradise ; therefore his 
words were powerful and effective, and he spoke 
as one having authority, for it seemed that, as he 
drew near his end, Almighty God gave him a 
foretaste of the beatitude that awaited him." 


" What went you out to see ?" 

Indeed, his fervour and zeal increased to such a 
degree that Giussano remarks : " As a candle, 
ere it dies out, blazes up with greater brilliancy, 
so the charity and holiness of our beloved Cardinal 
blazed forth with tenfold splendour, the nearer he 
drew to death." 

In March he laid the foundation-stone of a 
magnificent church at Rho, in honour of our 
Lady. This edifice was to be on a superb scale, 
but it was not completed during his lifetime. 

About the same time he founded a convalescent 
home for the sick poor to repose in when dis 
charged from the hospital of Milan. This under 
taking was also finished by his immediate successor, 
Caspar Visconti. 

The mere enumeration of all the churches, 
hospitals, convents, and seminaries, that owe their 
origin to the reforming Cardinal would fill a 
volume, and to give a detailed account of each 
would take a lifetime. How in his short allotted 
span of forty-six years he contrived to do so 
much is one of those miracles of superhuman 
energy and devotion only possible to a great 
saint. Ordinary mortals must marvel and admire 
such supernatural power, and certainly can never 
hope to imitate it. Yet, though we cannot follow 
the steps of the ascetic Archbishop in works of 
chanty or in deeds of magnitude and heroism, 
we can strive like him to do little acts of kindness, 
we can practise the art of saying and doing 
pleasant things, and by so doing bring sunshine 

St. Charles Borromeo 

and peace to many world-weary and poverty- 
stricken souls. 

" We cannot all be heroes, 

And thrill a hemisphere 
With some great, daring venture, 

Some deed that mocks at fear ; 
But we can fill a lifetime 

With kindly acts and true : 
There s always noble service 

For noble souls to do." 

Charles never considered his own ease or com 
fort, and was ready to fly off to the succour of the 
weak and suffering, even when he himself was 
bowed down with sickness and fever. The follow 
ing is but one instance of his loving self-forgetful- 
ness : 

He had officiated pontifically in the Duomo on 
the last Sunday in April, 1584, when word was 
brought him that Giovanni Delfino, Bishop of 
Brescia, was dying. Fatigued as he was, he 
immediately set out for that city, travelling day 
and night in the hope of being in time to comfort 
and console his suffragan Bishop, and himself 
administer the last Sacraments. He reached the 
patient in time to give him Extreme Unction, and 
Giovanni Delfino passed away having received 
the last absolution from his beloved Archbishop, 
who remained beside him until the end. 

Charles made all the arrangements for, and 

officiated at, the funeral, and then returned to 

Milan, arriving at eight in the morning, in time to 

celebrate Holy Mass on the Feast of the Exalta- 


" What went you out to see ?" 

tion of the Cross. He preached, recited the 
Divine Office in the Duomo, conducted the Pro 
cession of the Holy Nail through the city, and 
wound up with pontifical Vespers and Compline. 
His lifelong efforts to suppress King Carnival 
were crowned with success. During the three 
weeks that preceded the Lent of 1584, the 
people, instead of indulging as formerly in profane 
diversions, devoted the time they had hitherto 
given to frivolous and often sinful frolics, to the 
service of God. They heard sermons, they fol 
lowed holy processions, they listened to the sub 
lime Gregorian chant. They went on pilgrimages 
from church to church, and they who had been 
renowned throughout Italy as pleasure-loving and 
dissipated were transformed into sanctified, de 
vout, charitable Christians. 

The reforming Cardinal gave thanks to God 
for the reform he had at last succeeded in effect 
ing. His efforts had not been in vain ; Milan was 
changed, root and branch ; her citizens were the 
shining lights of Italy, and her Archbishop could 
say with Simeon : " Now Thou dost dismiss Thy 
servant, O Lord, according to Thy word, in 



IN the almost unendurable heat of midsummer in 
the plains of Lombardy, Charles passed from 
parish to parish on his pastoral visitations. 

At Legnano he was surprised to find that there 
was only one priest to minister to the spiritual 
needs of a large population. In the neighbouring 
village of Parabiago there was a collegiate church 
served by five Canons ; the congregation was small, 
so Charles considered that under the circumstances 
he was justified in robbing Peter to pay Paul. He 
therefore removed four of the Canons to Legnano ; 
erected a collegiate church there, under a Provost; 
appointed a priest to attend to a hamlet where 
there was a chapel of ease ; and gave Parabiago 
in charge to two clergymen. He returned to 
Milan to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady s 
Nativity, giving his benediction with unutterable 
fervour and love to his cherished flock. It was 
the last time he was to officiate in the beautiful 
Duomo ; most of the congregation looked for the 
last time though they knew it not on the frail, 
attenuated form and the thoughtful, refined face of 
their Archbishop. Eyewitnesses relate that, when 

His House in Order 

he offered up the Holy Sacrifice and blessed the 
people, his countenance glowed with seraphic joy, 
and his whole demeanour was instinct with in 
describable majesty and dignity : " As the sun 
when it shineth, so did he shine in the temple of 
God, when he put on the robe of glory and was 
crowned with the perfection of power. When he 
went up to the holy altar he honoured the vesture 
of holiness." 

News was brought him on September 18 that 
Francesco Bossi, Bishop of Novara, was in his 
last agony. He accordingly set off at once, but, 
though he travelled post-haste, he arrived too 
late. He officiated at the funeral, however. 
Scarcely was it over, when a messenger arrived 
from Cardinal Ferrero, announcing that their 
cousin, the Marquis de Messerano, was dangerously 
ill. The indefatigable Cardinal immediately pro 
ceeded to the castle of the dying noble, adminis 
tered the last Sacraments, and prepared him for 
death. The two Cardinals then went on to 
Vercelli. That city was in a state of unrest ; 
dissensions of various kinds divided the Canons 
of the Chapter. Matters had reached such a pass 
that the more peaceable of the citizens feared 
there would be a riot, and that blood would be 
shed and bones broken. 

The Bishop, Monsignor Giovanni Francesco 

Bonomi, was away, acting as Nuncio at the 

Imperial Court. In his absence, Gregory XIII. 

deputed Charles as Visitor Apostolic, to endeavour 


St. Charles Borromeo 

to restore concord. Ten days after the arrival of 
our saint peace was re-established, the warring 
Canons were reconciled, and they one and all 
agreed to obey in future the decrees of their 

Several prelates, hearing that Charles was at 
Vercelli, visited him there, consulting him on the 
government of their dioceses, and entreated him 
to solve several vexed questions. He gave them 
the benefit of his advice. 

Cardinal Borromeo had written to his beloved 
spiritual son, Charles Emmanuel, to congratulate 
him on his approaching marriage with the Infanta 
of Spain. In reply, the Duke sent a most pressing 
invitation to his dear Father, warmly asking him 
to come to Turin. It was but a short journey, so 
Charles agreed. He wished to converse with the 
Prince and give him salutary advice, but he also 
passionately longed once again to venerate the 
Holy Winding-Sheet. He spent a short time at 
the Court, and had several important interviews, 
principally on spiritual subjects, with the Duke of 
Savoy, who wished him to promise to return .for_ 
the wedding. "My Father, I implore you to come 
and bless my marriage with the Infanta," the 
young Prince pleaded. Charles smiled enigmatic 
ally, and, when closely pressed to give a decided 
refusal, remarked dreamily : " Perchance we may 
never meet again." 

On October 8 he left Turin ; at Biella he heard 
that his cousin, the Marquis de Messerano, was 

His House in Order 

dead. So he hurried to the Castello di Messerano 
to attend the funeral and comfort the widow. 

Having paid this visit of charity, he felt free to 
go to Varallo to make his annual retreat. He 
sent for his confessor, Father Adorno, S.J., for he 
wished to follow the spiritual exercises under the 
direction of the learned and saintly Jesuit. We 
know that his devotion to our Lord s Passion 
had always been great, but during his stay at 
Varallo it increased to such a degree that he 
frequently spent hours kneeling before the various 
mysteries, lost in contemplation, and quite ob 
livious of the flight of time. On one occasion he 
spent eight hours in one of the chapels, neither 
moving nor speaking, his eyes burning with 
Divine love, fixed with inexpressible tenderness 
on the image of our Saviour. When Father 
Adorno at last roused him from this ecstatic 
meditation, the Cardinal reproached him for 
interrupting his devotions so soon, and when the 
Jesuit remarked he had spent eight hours in 
prayer, Charles replied, smiling : " You have put 
on the clock." 

It is impossible fitly to describe the sublime 
heights of sanctity to which Charles attained 
during his last retreat. He made a general con 
fession with sobs and tears ; he practised the 
severest corporal austerities, sleeping on a plank, 
disciplining himself to blood, taking only bread 
and water. This had been his daily fare for 
many years, but now he was so weakened by 

St. Charles Borromeo 

suffering that his confessor ordered him to par 
take of more solid food, to have some straw 
placed on the plank on which he slept, and to 
moderate his penances. He reluctantly complied, 
being under obedience; but, compelled to slightly 
abate his mortifications, he increased daily in 
humility. Never was anyone so humble and 
meek as the once haughty Borromeo. He had 
renounced the " Humilitas," the motto of the 
House of Borromeo, using only the archiepiscopal 
seal of Milan, but it was engraved on his heart. 
All his actions showed the deepest humility, the 
most profound abjection. He made himself the 
servant of all, lighting their lamps, calling them in 
the morning, refusing to allow them to serve him. 
On October 18 he set out for Arona, to meet 
the Cardinal of Vercelli, who wished to consult 
him on several important matters. He spent a 
few days there transacting business, stopping at 
the Jesuit monastery instead of at his own old 
home, the Rocca d Arona. On his return to 
Varallo he was attacked by a tertian fever, and 
was soon seriously ill. When the fever left him 
for a few days, he made up for the time he had 
been obliged to lose, by working with redoubled 
energy. He had an enormous correspondence, 
and, as letters requiring immediate answers had 
accumulated, it was a very fatiguing task to reply 
to them all. He did not, however, shrink from 
it. Cardinal Sfondrato required his advice on 
matters of moment ; he returned the letter with 

His House in Order 

copious marginal notes. He wrote to the Pope 
strongly recommending to his paternal care and 
generosity the Jesuit Fathers of the Brera 

Cardinal Paleotti wished him to publish the 
treatises he had composed at Sabbionetta on 
Prayer and on the Art of Meditation. Charles 
refused, writing that they were not worth printing 
until they were revised and corrected. These 
invaluable manuscripts are still in the Ambrosian 
Library at Milan, and have not yet been published. 

When Charles had regained a little strength, 
he went to Ascona to open the college of which 
he had laid the foundation-stone about fifteen 
months previously. He was very anxious to do 
this, for the founder had willed that it should 
be in working order within two years of his 

The plague was raging at Ascona and at 
Locarno, but this only made Charles more 
desirous to visit these towns and help the in 
habitants. He got so ill, however, that he was 
compelled to leave and return to Arona. When 
he arrived there, his cousin, Count Renato Bor- 
romeo, vainly entreated him to spend the night at 
the Rocca. Renato was the elder son of Charles s 
uncle, Giulio Cesare Borromeo, and the brother 
of the gentle, angelic Cardinal Frederick Bor 
romeo who was the second successor of our saint 
in the See of Milan. 

Charles turned a deaf ear to his cousin s 

St. Charles Borromeo 

entreaties, refusing to spend even one night 
under the paternal roof, and staying instead at 
the Jesuit monastery. He spent but a few days 
there, as he wished to arrive in Milan in time to 
celebrate the Feast of All Saints. In vain Renato 
urged the beneficial effects sure to ensue from a 
sojourn in his native place. Charles decided to 
start at once for Milan ; however, he got so ill 
that he was unable to leave Arona until Novem 
ber 2. He was too weak to offer up the Holy 
Sacrifice, but he received Holy Communion. Then 
they carried him to the boat, laying him on a bed 
provided by Renato, who insisted on his reclining 
on it. Renato and Father Adorno, S.J., accom 
panied him on his journey. They sailed across 
Lago Maggiore, entered the Ticino river, and 
pursued his journey through the naviglio, and so 
reached the outskirts of Milan. 

The dying man was placed in a litter and 
slowly conveyed to his palace, where he was 
welcomed by his brother-in-law, Count Annibali 
Alta Empe, and his nephew. Charles greeted 
them affectionately, then retired to his oratory, 
but was soon obliged to take to his bed. In the 
meanwhile physicians had been sent for. When 
they arrived and examined the patient, they shook 
their heads, declaring he was sick unto death. 
When he heard their sentence, Charles smiled 
radiantly, saying in rapt accents : " May the most 
holy will of God be blessed !" 

Peace was coming to him at last the peace 

His House in Order 

that passeth all understanding. He had fought 
the good fight for many years, and now the 
victory was almost won. His house was in order, 
he was at peace with God, with his neighbour, and 
with himself. 

" Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto 
you ; not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. 
Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be 




CHARLES BORROMEO lay on his death-bed. Around 
him knelt his relations and friends ; beside him 
stood his confessor, Father Adorno, S.J. The 
Archpriest of Milan gave him the Holy Viaticum. 
Charles endeavoured to rise to receive his Saviour, 
but, overcome by fever and pain, he fell back on 
the pillows. He wore his rochet and stole, and 
he was clothed in a hair shirt, while blessed ashes 
were strewn round him. It had been his wish 
to die thus in sackcloth and ashes, like the Bishops 
of the primitive Church. They asked him if he 
wished to receive Extreme Unction. " Yes, 
immediately," he whispered. 

He was passing rapidly away ; when the 
Governor of Milan, the Don d Arragona, Duke of 
Tierranueva, visited him, he could not speak ; he 
could not even raise his hand to give his blessing. 

According to the Ambrosian Rite, the Arch- 
priest of the diocese is next in rank to the Arch 
bishop ; consequently it was his duty to administer 
the last Sacraments. 

For on his death-bed Charles was true to his 
convictions, and died as he had lived, a faithful and 

Ecce venio 

loyal son of Mother Church, and a strict observer 
of the decrees of the Council of Trent. They had 
placed an altar at the foot of the bed ; on it were 
three pictures, representing Our Lord s Agony in 
the Garden, The dead Christ, and Christ in the 
Tomb. The Cardinal s eyes were riveted with 
ardent love on these representations of the Passion 
of our Redeemer. 

" In the midst of my sufferings," he whispered, 
" my greatest and only consolation is to meditate 
on the death of Jesus Christ." 

Father Bascape and Father Adorno recited the 
prayers for the dying, while the sobs and cries of 
the mourners filled the room. Charles scarce 
heard them ; the crucifix in his hands, his eyes 
fixed on the image of his Saviour, he gently 
breathed, " Ecce venio." Then he lay quite still. 
He never spoke again. In a brief space life 
became extinct ; the deep-set eyes closed, the 
colour faded from the face, the ardent soul of the 
reforming Cardinal had at last found rest. 

" I have lived my life, and that which I have done 
May He within Himself make pure ; 
For so the whole round earth is every way 
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God." 

Charles Borromeo, Cardinal of Santa Prassede, 
and Archbishop of Milan, died on Saturday, 
November 3, 1584, at eight in the evening, aged 
forty-six years and thirty-two days. 

" Extincta est lucerna in Israel," cried Gregory 
XIII. when he heard the sad tidings, adding, 

St. Charles Borromeo 

" Cardinal Borromeo was the glory of the Sacred 

One of its members, Cardinal Sirletti, voiced 
the unanimous opinion of all indeed, of all 
Christendom when he described the Cardinal of 
Santa Prassede in the following enthusiastic 
panegyric : 

" Charles Borromeo was imprisoned in his 
earthly tenement, for his soul was in heaven. 
Man in form, angel by grace, model of Christian 
perfection, mirror of Bishops, honour of Cardinals, 
he was a strong bulwark against the wicked. The 
most brilliant ornament of the Church, he was 
the salt, the light, and as it were a fortress placed 
on Mount Sion ; he was the shining light mentioned 
in the Gospel. . . . He shone through his faith 
and his science, through his whole life and his 
whole administration. . . . 

" His faith was the faith of a martyr. It was 
not his fault that he did not obtain the martyr s 
crown. His science was as great as a learned 
professor s, his life that of a confessor, and his 
government that of the Good Shepherd. He had 
the innocence of Abel, the honesty of Noah, the 
faith of Abraham, the obedience of Isaac, the 
energy of Jacob, the chastity of Joseph, the 
charity of Moses, the humility of David, the zeal 
of Elijah. . . . The Divine Spirit so powerfully 
strengthened his soul that it made it invincible 
and invulnerable. And in appearing at the 
Judgment-Seat he can say to Christ : Lord, 

Ecce venio 

Thou didst deliver to me five talents ; behold, I 
have gained other five over and above. 

" Surely Christ said unto him : Well done, good 
and faithful servant ; because thou hast been faith 
ful over a few things, I will place thee over many 
things : enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. 

Father Adorno, S.J., relates that, after assisting 
at the death of the Cardinal, he retired to the 
College of San Fedele, and, giving full vent to his 
grief, repeated over and over again : " Non est 
inventus similis illi qui conservaret legem Excelsi." 

While the worthy priest prayed and wept, his 
grief and weariness at last so overcame him that 
he slept, and in his sleep he had a strange dream. 
Charles Borromeo came to him, clothed in the 
pontifical vestments and shining with surpassing 
brilliancy. Father Adorno was astounded. " I 
thought you were dead, Eminence," he gasped ; 
" how is it I see you alive and well ?" 

A celestial radiance shone in the deep eyes of 
Charles : " Dominus mortificat et Dominus vivi- 
ficat." The saint replied : " I am among the 
blessed, and you will soon be with me." And 
it came to pass as foretold in his vision, for in 
a very short time Father Adorno died at Genoa 
in much peace and holiness. 

The funeral of the Archbishop of Milan took 

place on Wednesday, November 7. Cardinal 

Nicholas Sfondrato, Bishop of Cremona, who 

was later on Pope Gregory XIV., officiated. It 


St. Charles Borromeo 

is impossible to give even a faint idea of the grief 
of the Milanese, or of the splendour and pomp 
of the ceremonies. The body of the saint was 
interred, according to his wish, under the steps 
leading to the choir, and the following inscription 
composed by him was placed over it : 

" Charles, Cardinal of the title of Santa Prassede, chose 
during life this spot for his tomb, desiring that the clergy, 
the people, and the devout female sex, may remember him 
often in their prayers." 

Many of us have visited the inner sanctuary 
in the crypt of the Duomo in which Charles 
Borromeo sleeps his last sleep. The body reposes 
in a silver coffin, the gift of Philip IV. There 
we can gaze upon the worn face and attenuated 
figure of the reforming Cardinal. It is clothed in 
magnificent pontifical vestments, covered with gold 
and silver and precious stones. Gold and silver 
and gorgeous ornaments cover the walls of his 
shrine, and the motto of his House, " Humilitas," 
is blazoned in Gothic characters. It shines in gold 
and in silver, it is sculptured in marble, cast in 
bronze, and embroidered in silk ; and he he who 
loved poverty and contemned riches, who gave all 
he had to the poor, by a strange irony of Fate, 
lies in this magnificent sepulchre surrounded by 
priceless gems and clad in costly raiment. 

" What went you out to see ? A man clothed 
in soft garments ? Behold, they that are in costly 
apparel and live delicately are in the houses of 


" Ecce venio 

Charles Borromeo lies in the superb House of 
the King of Kings, in that glorious temple he 
helped to beautify, and from which he drove the 
buyers and sellers the splendid Duomo of Milan 
that he purified and chastened from the pomp 
and glory of men, consecrating it once and for 
all wholly and solely to the glory and service of 
the Most High. 

The process of the canonization of Charles 
Borromeo was commenced by Clement VIII. in 
1604, and completed by Paul V. in 1610, twenty- 
six years after his death. His feast is held on 
November 4. In November of this year (1910) 
the Church celebrated the tercentenary of the 
canonization of the greatest, yet the humblest, of 
orthodox reformers. His life was a short one ; 
the restless, ardent soul wore out the frail body. 
" Being, made perfect in a short space, he fulfilled 
a long time." His memory is inexpressibly dear 
to us ; his work endures to the present day. 

Kneeling before his shrine, we ask him to bless 
and intercede for us, that like him we may keep 
the law of the Most High, may do gracious and 
noble deeds, may live at peace with God and 
men, and when our time comes may, like him, 
commend our souls to our Redeemer with the 
words, " Ecce venio." 

K. &* T. Washbourne, Ltd., i, 2 & 4, Paternoster Row, London 

Crown 8vo. 336 pages. 
Cloth, 3/6. With Frontispiece. 

Francis de 





in particular is witten with a certain 
distinction of style, and is vivid, 
interesting, and picturesque. The 
book deserves to be pushed." 

UNIVERSE. "A beautiful and 
sympathetic study of the gentle Saint. 
From the first chapter to the last there 
is not a dull line in this life. . . ." 

TABLET. "The book is not a 
( study in any technical or theologi 
cal sense of the word, but simply the 
story of the Saint s life told clearly 
and crisply, and illustrated with pas 
sages from his inimitable letters. . . . 
We consider the book well worth the 
perusal of all who enjoy the reading 
of the well-told story of a great and 
- ^^^ - ^ noble life. 1 

SUN (Ontario). " Every one of the 329 pages contains something interesting, 
something useful ; and the history of the Saint is given in simple and expressive 

IRISH MONTHLY. " Describes the Saint s life and character with fulness and 
exactness, and with great literary charm." 


CORK EXAMINER. "The story is full of dramatic incidents, in some of which 
a tragic note is struck ; the prevailing tone is bright and cheerful. Exceedingly 
pleasant to read, and should further enhance the already acknowledged high 
powers of the author." 

NOTTINGHAM GUARDIAN. " Dr. Desmond is a good character study, but 
the author puts her best work into her sketch of the heroine, who is a very < live 
young woman, with solid qualities and real depths underneath the sparkling 
surface. 5 

bright and cheerfully-written ^novel, 
the scene of which is cast in the 
Green Isle. ..." 

IRISH ROSARY. "The love-pas 
sages have a precious Juliet-tinge, 
written by one who understands.- We 
do not hesitate to foretell popularity 
for the work of this gifted author." 

a story that convinces by its truthful 
little touches of character." 

SCOTSMAN. "The Irish atmo 
sphere is unmistakable, and we are 
introduced to a number of agreeable 
people, among whom, next to Jac- 
quetta herself, one likes her most 
favoured lover, her uncle, Dr. 
Desmond, and a couple of fine 
specimens of the Irish priesthood." 

Crown 8vo. 237 pages. 
Cloth, 2/6. 




4700 C25 K5 1911 SMC 
Kenny, Louise M. Stacpoole 
Saint Charles Borromeo